ORLANDO, Florida – The judge presiding over the trial of a fired astronaut who is accused of trying to kidnap a rival for a space shuttle pilot's affections asked lawyers on both sides Thursday to limit media contact. He also temporarily sealed court documents that were to be released soon.
Lisa Marie Nowak's case has drawn international media attention.
"I'm just trying to keep the media frenzy down to a dull roar," Orange County Circuit Judge Marc L. Lubet said.
Lubet stopped short of issuing a gag order, but told both sides they were not allowed to issue any "press releases." He set a hearing Monday morning on whether to seal additional court documents the media requested from prosecutors.
Lubet said further publicity in the case could taint the jury pool and force the trial to be moved, and the defense agreed.
Nowak was fired from NASA about a month after her Feb. 5 arrest. Police say she drove from Houston, Texas to Florida, wearing a diaper so she would not have to stop, to confront Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman in an Orlando airport parking lot and then pepper-sprayed her. Shipman, who was dating astronaut Bill Oefelein, was able to get away.
Police reported finding an air gun, steel mallet, knife and rubber tubing in Nowak's car.
Nowak has pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted kidnapping, burglary with assault and battery.
The judge ordered that Nowak's psychological evaluations be sealed, kept out of the court file and stored in his chambers.
Lykkebak also requested more time to evaluate his client's mental health for a potential insanity defense. He said Nowak was held and interrogated 15 hours before being booked, but much of her taped interviews with police was inaudible.
Lubet also said he wanted the trial to start in September instead of July. Nowak would have to waive speedy trial rights for the case to wait until September, but Lykkebak said that likely would not be a problem.