Video: Ex-astronaut in love triangle case speaks

msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 8/24/2007 10:00:00 PM ET 2007-08-25T02:00:00

Lisa Nowak faced her romantic rival in court Friday during a long day in the NASA love triangle case that was capped with the ex-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 frantic 1,000-mile (1,600-kilometer) 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 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 attorney 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 that the anklet is one of the only things that makes her feel safe. “When I’m home alone and there’s nobody there with me, it is a comfort,” Shipman said.

Under questioning from Nowak attorney Donald Lykkebak, Shipman acknowledged that she had visited her boyfriend in Nowak’s hometown of Houston several times since Nowak’s arrest. She didn’t say if that boyfriend was space shuttle pilot Bill Oefelein, who had a romantic relationship with both women.

Paying for her own tracking
Nowak, a 44-year-old mother of three who has been dismissed by NASA, 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, and the Navy captain and pilot says it’s bulky, uncomfortable and expensive, the weekly rental rate of $105 reaching $3,000 so far.

She also claims prevented her from exercising as she’s 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 Nowak could do certain exercises and has been able to function despite the inconvenience. She also dismissed Nowak’s complaint about the anklet’s expense. “You’re paying a media consultant — fire the consultant,” she told Nowak.

The judge did not rule Friday, saying another hearing will be necessary on the anklet and other issues.

Did she or didn’t she?
Testimony also addressed whether Nowak wore diapers to avoid stopping in driving straight from Houston to Orlando. Astronauts use them on shuttle missions, and that detail has made Nowak a punchline on comedy shows and around the world.

In June, Lykkebak called it “the biggest lie in this preposterous tale,” and criticized the media for circulating the story.

Lykkebak never mentioned it Friday, but Orlando police detective William Becton reiterated that he found three dirty diapers rolled up in a garbage bag inside the former astronaut’s BMW. He said Nowak told him she urinated in them on the drive from Houston to Orlando to limit stops, though Becton initially feared they were from an unattended child.

Slideshow: Space Shots: Shooting stars Lykkebak said the diapers were left in the car after a long-ago hurricane evacuation.

Lykkebak said police searched Nowak’s car without her permission or a warrant. He said in additional court filings that she gave a 72-page interview with Becton under duress — after being held for three hours, deprived of sleep and a phone call and not advised of her constitutional rights. The interview persisted, Lykkebak said, despite Nowak asking at least three times, “Should I have a lawyer?”

Lykkebak said Nowak didn’t sign written forms authorizing a search and waiving her Miranda rights. Becton, the detective, said he was relying on the tape recording of their conversation as proof.

Becton portrayed Nowak as a crafty interview subject, comparing their lengthy talk to a “chess game” in which the two sparred for details.

“I realized I was dealing with somebody who was more intelligent than I was, more educated,” Becton said. “I was having a very difficult time gaining any information from her.”

Nowak told detectives she and Shipman were vying for the affection of the same space shuttle pilot and that she confronted Shipman because she wanted to know “where she stands.”

Nowak’s main interest during the interview seemed to be how much Shipman knew, he said.

“There are chunks of the interview, if not large portions, where I’m actually the one being interviewed by her,” Becton said. “She was very calculating and methodical in the manner in which she would answer my questions.”

In her post-hearing statement, Nowak made it clear that she wouldn’t be answering questions from journalists anytime soon. She complained about the "invasion of my street" and the harassment of her family and friends. In general, she said, the news media have been "practicing a tabloid approach to this coverage," she said.

Nowak said she would rebuff journalists' offers of "help" to get her story out. "I have no plans to further discuss this unfortunate episode in a public forum," she said.

She had warmer words for her supporters, including hundreds of people who wrote personal letters. "I've read and kept every single one," she said.

After her dismissal from NASA, Nowak returned to military duties, developing curriculum and training programs as a staff member for the Chief of Naval Air Training Command in Corpus Christi, Texas. She said she has been welcomed by her new co-workers.

"They told me, 'You're on our team now,'" she said.

This report includes information from The Associated Press and MSNBC.com.

© 2013 msnbc.com

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