Jury finds Mid guilty

The Baltimore Sun

WASHINGTON -- A military jury has convicted a former Navy football player of forcing himself on a female midshipman in a Georgetown hotel room but acquitted him of sexually assaulting a second female midshipman two months later in an Annapolis home.

After three hours of deliberation, the jury also convicted yesterday Kenny Ray Morrison, 24, of conduct unbecoming an officer related to the February 2006 incident. He faces a possible 10 years in a Navy brig when he is sentenced today.

The former backup linebacker showed little emotion while the verdict was read, while the two women held hands in the back row of the gallery of a Washington Navy Yard courtroom.

The guilty verdict is the first for the Annapolis military college in recent years and only the third out of at least 56 reported sexual misconduct allegations since 2001.

Two cases in the past year have resulted in acquittals, including the case of former standout quarterback Lamar S. Owens Jr., on rape charges.

Vice Adm. Rodney P. Rempt, the Naval Academy superintendent who has been both praised and criticized for his aggressive stance in handling allegations of sexual impropriety, recommended that Owens be kicked out. The Navy secretary's office has yet to make a final determination on his fate.

An academy spokesman declined to comment about yesterday's verdict. Morrison's two accusers left the courtroom swiftly without speaking publicly.

William Ferris, Morrison's civilian attorney, and Morrison's family also withheld comment.

The government's case against Morrison has been in legal limbo for a year, brought initially with only the February allegation in a lower form of court-martial that could not have resulted in jail time.

Last September, prosecutors accused him of drugging and raping two women after traces of a date rape drug were found in their hair. That evidence was later discredited, and the current charges were brought in January.

The trial got off to a slow start a week ago, when it took three days to impanel a jury of six men and one woman, including two Marine Corps officers and five from the Navy, all of middle or senior rank.

The first woman, who was 20 at the time of the incident, testified Thursday that she had been partying with several friends on the Navy football team at the Washington club Lulu's on Feb. 2, leaving after she vomited twice. Escorted by a friend to the hotel across the street, she became sick again before lying down and going to sleep about 11:30 p.m., she testified.

The woman, now a senior, testified that Morrison woke her up in the early-morning hours of Feb. 3 and asked if she wanted to have sex. She told him no. While she continued to resist verbally and physically, he moved her to another bed and forced her to have sex three times, she testified.

"I had my hands between my legs to shield him or prevent him," said the woman, who kept her composure on the stand. "I was still saying no at this time."

Morrison testified Friday that the woman kissed him, rubbed his leg as he sat next to her on the hotel bed and asked if he had a condom.

"I said, 'I didn't, I'll be safe. Is that OK?' And she said yes," Morrison said.

The prosecution's case focused on the assertion that the woman would not have wanted to have sex because she was menstruating, drunk, barely knew Morrison and had vomited repeatedly without brushing her teeth before going to bed.

"She did not consent," Lt. Cmdr. Colin Kisor, a Navy prosecutor, said in closing arguments. "She did not consent."

He zeroed in on Morrison's testimony Friday that he walked into the room and found the woman eager to have sex, telling jurors that if they believed him, "he was incredibly lucky."

Ferris noted that the woman admitted kissing Morrison, asked him if he had a condom and got back into bed with him after she had allegedly been raped.

It was "a classic he said, she said" situation and there wasn't enough evidence for a guilty verdict, Ferris said, focusing on an immunity agreement the woman received in exchange for her testimony.

Because she had consensual sex the night before the alleged rape and drank underage that night, she had a motive to lie and say she was raped to insulate herself from being disciplined at the academy, Ferris argued.

Kisor countered that there was no evidence the woman was being investigated for such conduct, and that she had no reason to believe she would get in trouble on the morning after the alleged assault, when the incident was reported.

Because intercourse took place in front of a sleeping football player, in a hotel room where three other former players and another civilian entered, Kisor said the sex was indecent under military law and urged jurors to find Morrison guilty of conduct unbecoming an officer.

"Midshipmen, even when they're in civilian clothes and off base, are held to a higher standard, and this is not it," he said.

But Ferris said that Morrison's actions "did not reach the level of gravity" for a conviction on that charge, since no one saw them having sex, including Jason Monts, the former starting linebacker who was sleeping in a bed 3 feet away.

The second woman who accused Morrison of sexual assault testified Friday that she went to an Annapolis bar in April 2006 to celebrate her birthday and had four beers. The woman, who graduated in May, said she did not remember anything that happened after 11:30 p.m. that evening, and awoke the next morning naked and with vaginal pain, in a house she didn't recognize.

Ferris stressed that the woman had no recollection of anything that happened that night, and that she could have had sex with anyone and would not remember.

"There's simply nothing there," he said.


The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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