Former Navy football player faces court-martial

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Rape and drug charges have been dropped against a former Navy football player accused of assaulting two female midshipmen, but the Naval Academy said Thursday it will court-martial him on lesser counts.

Kenny Ray Morrison was accused of using a “date rape drug” to assault the women in separate incidents, but testimony from expert witnesses during pretrial hearings cast doubt on whether the women had been drugged.

Morrison is now charged with two counts of indecent assault and two counts of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman. He previously faced more serious charges of rape and distribution of the drug GHB. Despite the lesser charges, academy Superintendent Vice Adm. Rodney Rempt decided that Morrison will face the most serious form of military hearing, a general court-martial. In a statement, the academy said Rempt made the decision “after careful consideration of all available evidence.”

“These cases are always sad,” Rempt said. “We have midshipmen who reported being assaulted and a midshipman accused of assault.”

Morrison’s lawyer, William Ferris, was not available for comment.

A former backup linebacker, Morrison, 24, was one of two Navy football players accused of rape last year.

Former star quarterback Lamar Owens Jr. was cleared by a military jury in July but found guilty of lesser charges. That decision was upheld Thursday by Vice Adm. Paul Sullivan, commander of the Naval Sea Systems Command, who reviewed the case.

Owens faces no criminal punishment but will have a hearing at the academy to determine whether he will be dismissed and forced to repay the $140,000 cost of his education. Owens was set to graduate last spring but has not received his officer commission and is detailed to the Washington Navy Yard as he awaits a decision.

Morrison was charged in the spring with indecent assault, indecent acts and conduct unbecoming an officer on suspicion of having sex with a female midshipman against her wishes in the presence of other midshipmen at a Washington hotel on in February 2006.

The woman testified at an Article 32 hearing, similar to a civilian grand jury, that Morrison had sex with her three times. She was so groggy and weak that she couldn’t resist him despite telling him repeatedly that she did not want to have sex, she said.

In September, prosecutors charged him with two counts of rape, one for the Washington incident and another for an incident in which Morrison was accused of having sex with another midshipman on April 21.

That woman said Morrison gave her a beer at an Annapolis bar near the academy. She said she awoke the next morning in bed with Morrison, unable to remember anything and believing they had sex without her consent.

Navy prosecutors said the women’s hair had traces of GHB, a drug sometimes used to facilitate rapes. But at a hearing in December, the director of a leading French lab said there were no significant traces of the drug in their hair.

No date has been set for the court-martial.

AP-ES-01-18-07 1954EST

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