November 11, 2009 in Nation/World

Astronaut makes apology, guilty plea

Lisa Nowak sentenced in 2007 incident
Sarah Lundy And Willoughby Mariano Orlando Sentinel
 
The Spokesman-Review photo

Nowak
(Full-size photo)

ORLANDO, Fla. – Former astronaut Lisa Nowak turned from a courtroom podium Tuesday to face the woman she was accused of attacking two years ago. She stood up straight, and her blue eyes focused on Colleen Shipman sitting in the front row of the packed room.

“I am sincerely sorry for causing fear and misunderstanding and all the intense public exposure you have encountered,” Nowak said.

Moments later, Orange Circuit Court Judge Marc Lubet accepted Nowak’s guilty plea of burglary to a car, a third-degree felony, and misdemeanor battery.

Lubet – taking into consideration Nowak’s background, lack of criminal record, her apology and other factors – sentenced her to two days in jail with credit for two days served. He also ordered her to one year probation and 50 hours of community service.

Without the plea, she faced up to five years in prison.

She must stay away from Shipman, who lives in Alaska.

Nowak, a mission specialist on Discovery’s July 2006 flight, was arrested following a strange confrontation with Shipman at Orlando International Airport on Feb. 5, 2007.

Shipman was dating Bill Oefelein, then an astronaut and Nowak’s former lover. Orlando police said Nowak drove nearly 1,000 miles from Houston to Orlando. Soiled diapers were found in her car. A detective said she told him she used the diapers so she wouldn’t have to stop on the way – the detail was later denied by her attorney.

Nowak is accused of attacking Shipman in the airport parking lot and blasting her with pepper spray.

Shipman lives with Oefelein in Alaska, and the two are engaged.


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