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Jury considers man's fate in sex-tape trial

The Baltimore Sun

WASHINGTON -- A military jury was scheduled to resume deliberations this morning in the general court-martial of a Navy physician accused of secretly recording Naval Academy midshipmen having sex in his home.

The jury of five men and one woman -- all Navy captains -- must decide whether Cmdr. Kevin Ronan is guilty of conduct unbecoming an officer, illegal wiretapping and obstruction of justice. If found guilty, Ronan, 41, of Annapolis, could get more than 10 years in a Navy brig.

Jurors met for 4 1/2 hours yesterday.

After eight days of testimony, prosecutors said in closing arguments yesterday that Ronan committed a "flagrant abuse of trust" by using a camera hidden in an air purifier to make the sex digital video discs and videotapes. Prosecutors said nine current or former midshipmen and a civilian woman were shown, between April 2006 and January, having sex with their partners or masturbating.

The lead prosecutor, Lt. Cmdr. Peter Clemow, called the defense's theory that midshipmen had framed Ronan "utterly preposterous." Ronan's defense team never offered evidence of such a conspiracy to blackmail him, Clemow said.

Ronan's civilian defense attorney, William Ferris, pointed out, however, that the prosecution failed to present any direct evidence linking Ronan to the making of the videos, instead relying solely on circumstantial evidence: his handwriting on a DVD, labeled "Lectures," the same name on a folder on his computer that contained more than 2,000 images of gay pornography.

Ferris also questioned the credibility of the two former midshipmen who testified that they found a cache of DVDs in Ronan's home in January, pointing out that one of the two had falsified a college transcript and a college admissions letter after being expelled from the academy only weeks earlier. He further said that the same former midshipman had withheld several of the videos from investigators until weeks after Ronan was charged.

"I see this case as being Scotch-taped together," Ferris told the jury.

Ronan, a pediatrician, served at the academy from 2002 to last year as brigade medical officer and team doctor for several varsity sports. He hosted midshipmen at his home on weekends and other free time through the Naval Academy's sponsor program. Now he is assigned to the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery in Washington.

Four of the jurors -- two-thirds -- must vote for a conviction, compared with a unanimous verdict from a civilian jury. If Ronan is found guilty, he would be sentenced immediately.

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