November 11, 2009

Nowak Pleads Guilty, Receives Probation

On Tuesday, former NASA astronaut Lisa Nowak pleaded guilty to reduced charges and avoided jail time for her 2007 attack on a romantic rival.

Nowak apologized in court to her victim, which was former Air Force Captain Colleen Shipman, before being sentenced to a year on probation.

"I am sincerely sorry to cause fear and misunderstanding and all of the intense public exposure ... I hope very much that we can move forward from this in privacy," Nowak said after the judge directed her to turn and face Shipman.

Nowak drove over 1,000 miles from Houston to Orlando International Airport on February 5, 2007 to assault Shipman with pepper spray.

Police said that Nowak wore diapers so she would not have to waste time on bathroom breaks as she drove to Orlando to meet her victim at the airport.

Shipman was dating NASA astronaut Bill Oefelein, with whom Nowak had a romantic relationship with.

Nowak was originally charged with attempted kidnapping, battery and burglary.  She pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery and burglary of an automobile.  These charges could have had her face up to six years in prison.

According to Shipman, Nowak had hunted her down in a dark airport parking lot and attacked her with "a blood-chilling expression of relentless rage and glee."

"I'm 100 percent certain that Lisa Nowak came here to murder me," Shipman told the Florida judge, adding that Nowak had researched "corpse dismemberment" beforehand.

She told the judge not to be fooled by Nowak's contrite demeanor and said that the attack had destroyed her life and career.

Shipman said that she no longer has a job at the Air Force due to injuries from the attack.  She said that she still suffers nightmares, high blood pressure, chest pain and dizzy spells, and she also barricades her doors and has purchased weapons for personal protection.

Judge Marc Lubet ordered Nowak to prepare and send a letter of apology to Shipman and have no further contact with Shipman or Oefelein.

"You are to stay totally away from her," the judge said.

NASA has fired both Nowak and Oefelein, although Nowak continues to work for the U.S. Navy in Texas.  Shipman and Oefelein both moved to Alaska and started a freelance writing and photography business.


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