11:44 am EDT July 20, 2006

Jury Finds Owens Not Guilty Of Rape In Court-Martial

By WASHINGTON -- News4's

Pat Collins reported Thursday that a jury has found Midshipman Lamar Owens of Savannah, Ga., not guilty of rape.

The jury has found Owens guilty of conduct unbecoming of an officer and violating a legal order or regulation in connection with incidents that occurred in January.

A jury of five Naval officers has been deliberating criminal charges against the Naval Academy's former quarterback.

The jury verdict did not have to be unanimous. Only two-thirds of the jury had to agree for a guilty verdict.

Jury Deliberates In Naval Academy Court Martial

"They have determined, obviously, that the consensual act took place," Cmdr. John Maksym, the judge, said, adding that the jury of five Naval officers found that Owens "wrongfully entered the room without permission and wrongfully engaged in consensual sex."

Owens, standing at attention as the verdicts were read, showed no emotion. He remains free without bond. He was not allowed to graduate or receive a commission in May, and remains a midshipman.

Pat Collins reported Thursday that in the military system, jury members are required to vote by a secret ballot and no members are allowed to abstain. There are no hung juries, but once the verdict is decided, the jury can ask for a re-vote before the judge announces the decision.

Neither Owens' accuser nor her family was in court when the verdict was read.

A female midshipman alleged that Owens came to her room at the academy's dormitory, got in her bed and forced himself on her.

Owens testified during the court-martial that the young woman sent him an invitation by instant message, then tugged on his sweater minutes after his arrival, indicating she wanted him to join her on the bed.

Both Owens and his accuser testified that they had several drinks at separate locations in Baltimore and Annapolis in the hours before their early-morning encounter, but other witnesses have said the young woman was seen having as many as nine drinks at a restaurant and later at an Annapolis bar favored by midshipmen.

The judge told jurors Thursday that if the accuser offered her consent, and then fell asleep, and Owens stopped the encounter, the act did not constitute rape.

The punishment phase will start in court Friday morning. Prosecutors recommended a sentence of two years on the conduct unbecoming charge; Maksym tabled discussion of a sentence on the failure to obey a lawful order charge until Friday.

The judge said he would also consider to whether to set aside either of the charges.

Owens was a team captain and starting quarterback for Navy last season, leading the team to record of 8-4 with victories over Army and Air Force, and a win over Colorado State in the Poinsettia Bowl.

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NBC4 -- http://www.nbc4.com/news/9548612/detail.html#