WASHINGTON (AP) – A former U.S. Naval Academy quarterback acquitted of raping a female midshipman but convicted of two lesser charges should not face any punishment, a military jury recommended Friday.

Lamar S. Owens Jr. could have received anything from a written reprimand to dismissal on the two charges of conduct unbecoming an officer and disobeying a lawful order. Prosecutors recommended a two-year sentence.

Owens’ mother burst into tears when the decision was announced. His father leaned over a dividing wall and hugged him.

The 22-year-old senior from Savannah, Ga., did not speak to reporters, but his civilian attorney Reid Weingarten said the team was “thankful to God that justice was done.”

The five Naval Academy officers that served as his jury on Thursday found that Owens had consensual sex with a junior midshipman in her room at the academy’s Bancroft Hall on Jan. 29. His accuser had claimed Owens entered her room uninvited and raped her after she blacked out.

Both Owens and his accuser testified that they had several drinks at separate locations in Baltimore and Annapolis in the hours before their early morning encounter, but other witnesses have said the young woman was seen having as many as nine drinks at a restaurant and later at an Annapolis bar favored by midshipmen.

Now, academy superintendent Vice Admiral Rodney Rempt will decide whether to discipline Owens for violating academy rules, including prohibitions against having sex on campus, fraternizing with a member of his company and violating a written order that he stay away from his accuser.

“We’re going to have a discussion, and the admiral will evaluate this case anew,” Weingarten said.

Owens expected to enter the Navy as an ensign assigned to surface warfare duties, but he was not allowed to graduate or receive a commission in May, and remains a midshipman. He has the credits to qualify for an economics degree.

Earlier Friday, he told the court he hoped to remain in the service.

“I still want to be a Naval officer,” Owens told the panel of five officers convened for his court martial. “I deeply regret the unwanted attention that I brought to the Naval Academy,” Owens said.

Last season, Owens led Navy’s football team to an 8-4 record that included victories over military academy rivals Air Force and Army and a victory in the Poinsettia Bowl over Colorado State. He was the team’s most valuable player.

AP-ES-07-21-06 1724EDT


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