WASHINGTON – Former U.S. Naval Academy quarterback Lamar Owens Jr. and a female student who says he raped her agree on some basic facts — Owens was in the woman's dorm room early one January morning, and the two had sex.
But it will be up to a military jury to decide whether it was a consensual encounter or whether the star football player sexually assaulted the woman.
The woman testified for six hours Tuesday as Owens' court-martial on rape and other charges began at the Washington Navy Yard. She said she awoke to find Owens standing next to her bunk, trying to kiss her. The next thing she knew, he was on top of her.
But a lawyer for Owens said in opening statements that the woman beckoned Owens to her dorm room with an instant message, and that she gave her consent for the sex. Reid Weingarten said Owens showed poor judgment by going to the woman's room, but cut off the encounter when he realized the drunk woman had blacked out in bed.
"There is no way in the world this young man committed rape," Weingarten told the jury of five Navy personnel.
Owens, 22, of Savannah, Ga., is charged with rape, conduct unbecoming an officer, and violating a protective order. If convicted, he would be eligible for a maximum term of life in prison. Testimony in his court-martial was to resume Wednesday.
Owens led Navy's football team to an 8-4 record that included victories over military academy rivals Air Force and Army and a victory in the Poinsettia Bowl over Colorado State. He was the team's most valuable player, but did not graduate along with his class in the spring because of the criminal investigation.
Much of the case rests on the spotty memory of the woman, a 20-year-old who was a third year student at the time of the Jan. 29 incident.
She said she had eight drinks that night, including several shots of liquor, at an Annapolis restaurant and later at a bar near the academy. She couldn't remember portions of the night, including a brief period during the alleged rape.
While she said she did not explicitly tell Owens to stop, she said she didn't give her consent to sex and tried to show it by refusing his kisses and trying to wriggle away when he got on top of her. The woman said she told Owens she had a boyfriend.
She said Owens had been flirtatious with her throughout the year in instant messages and other contacts between them. She said she didn't have any contact with Owens the night of the alleged rape, but Weingarten said she sent an instant message to Owens telling him to come to her room. The woman said she did not remember doing that.
Weingarten spent much of his lengthy cross-examination attacking the woman's credibility, saying she concocted the story of rape to cover her own infractions, calling her a "serial violator" of academy rules. In return for her testimony, she was given immunity from punishment for academy violations such as underage drinking.
Owens is one of two Navy football players to face court-martial for sexual assault at the Washington Navy Yard this month. Kenny Ray Morrison, of Kingwood, Texas, entered a not-guilty plea Friday to charges of indecent assault and conduct unbecoming an officer for a Feb. 4 incident. An academy instructor also has a special court-martial set for August for allegedly making sexually crude remarks to a female midshipman.
The academy has been under close scrutiny following the release of a Pentagon report last summer criticizing it for not doing enough to stop abuse and following allegations of sexual abuse at the nation's other military academies.