|Former astronaut Lisa Nowak looked at photographs while testifying at a hearing yesterday in an Orlando, Fla., court. (ASSOCIATED PRESS/POOL)|
Ex-astronaut, romantic rival go to court
Nowak requests removal of ankle tracking device
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Lisa Nowak faced her romantic rival in court yesterday during a tense day in the NASA love triangle case that was capped with the former astronaut apologizing to the other woman for "frightening her in any way."
It was their first exchange of words and looks since Nowak was arrested and charged with trying to pepper spray and kidnap Colleen Shipman after a 1,000-mile drive to confront her over their shared feelings for another astronaut.
"The past six months have been very difficult for me, my family, and others close to me," a halting Nowak said after a five-hour hearing in which her lawyers sought to remove the ankle bracelet that tracks her movements and to block some of the evidence collected during her arrest.
"I know that it must have also been very hard for Colleen Shipman, and I would like her to know how very sorry I am about having frightened her in any way and about the subsequent public harassment that has besieged all of us."
Shipman had her lawyer read a statement during the hearing and hadn't planned to speak, but Nowak's lawyers persuaded Circuit Judge Marc L. Lubet to make her testify.
Speaking firmly and tersely, Shipman, an Air Force captain, said she is still afraid of Nowak and felt better with her movements being monitored.
"When I'm home alone and there's nobody there with me, it is a comfort," Shipman said.
Under questioning from Nowak's lawyer Donald Lykkebak, Shipman acknowledged that she had visited her boyfriend in Nowak's hometown of Houston several times since Nowak's arrest. She did not say whether that boyfriend was space shuttle pilot Bill Oefelein, who had a romantic relationship with both women.
Nowak, a 44-year-old mother of three who has been dismissed by National Aeronautics and Space Administration, has pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted kidnapping, battery, and burglary with assault in the February confrontation in an Orlando International Airport parking lot.
She is free on $25,500 bail, though the tracking anklet is a condition of her release. The Navy captain and pilot says it is bulky, uncomfortable, and expensive -- the weekly rental rate of $105 has totaled $3,000 so far.
She also says the device prevented her from exercising as she is required as a military officer.
Nowak promised to abide by all court orders if the device is removed, including not having contact with Shipman.
Assistant state attorney Pamela Davis suggested that Nowak could do certain exercises and has been able to function despite the inconvenience. She also dismissed the expense of the monitoring device.
"You're paying a media consultant; fire the consultant," she told Nowak.
The judge did not rule yesterday, saying another hearing will be necessary on the anklet and other issues.