WASHINGTON -- In tearful testimony, a former midshipman said yesterday that because of the close relationship he had with a Navy doctor, he waited several days before reporting videos he alleges the doctor secretly shot of him and other midshipmen engaged in sex acts at the doctor's Annapolis home.
The accused officer, Cmdr. Kevin Ronan, "had been pretty good to all of us," said the former midshipman, who was dismissed from the Naval Academy for bad grades before the alleged discovery of the videos. His face reddened, and he clenched his jaw and dabbed his eyes with a balled-up tissue as he spoke. "We realized he could face several years in prison, and for that reason it was a hard decision."
Ronan, who was a Naval Academy physician until last year, has been charged with conduct unbecoming an officer, violating a Maryland law against unauthorized prurient visual surveillance, and attempting to conceal or destroy evidence.
Yesterday's hearing at the Washington Navy Yard was held to determine whether Ronan should face court-martial. A decision is expected in about a month.
The former midshipman, whom The Sun is not naming because he is alleged to be the victim of a sex crime, testified that the academy assigned Ronan to be his "sponsor father." The young man and a dozen other midshipmen would regularly go to the home of Ronan, a volunteer in the academy's sponsor program.
After the former academy student was expelled, he temporarily moved in with Ronan, a team physician for Naval Academy athletics and a brigade medical officer.
Ronan is now assigned to the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery in Washington.
One night while Ronan was away, the young man testified, he looked through a stack of DVDs in the doctor's bedroom. One marked "lectures" seemed suspicious, he said. He was shocked when he watched it and discovered a video of his teammate having sex with his girlfriend, he testified.
The next morning, he and the teammate - who also testified yesterday - went through the house together looking for other sex tapes, he said. They discovered a number of videotapes and DVDs that showed several midshipmen and their girlfriends engaged in sexual acts. He and his teammate also found a camera hidden in an air vaporizer that had a live feed to the television - and recording equipment - in the doctor's bedroom, he testified.
The second witness, the Naval Academy graduate, testified that he went to authorities several days later.
Paul Leo, a naval criminal investigator, testified that he searched Ronan's home, computer and two offices and did not find the videos the accusers described.
Ronan's attorney, William Ferris, did not call any witnesses, but in a closing statement at the end of the proceedings argued that charges regarding videos of midshipmen who do not appear on the tape and DVD the accusers turned over should be dropped.
Even if Ronan made the tapes, he didn't violate Maryland law because the statute does not apply to private residences, Ferris said. Also, Ronan had no idea his home would be searched, so it's unreasonable to charge him with hiding or destroying evidence, he said.