Orlando, Fla. - In a surprise defense strategy, the attorney for rogue Astronaut Lisa Marie Nowak, of Houston, Texas now blames an article that appeared in the Februrary 5 issue of Time Magazine for the woman's early hours astrosault on another woman in an Orlando, Florida airport parking lot.
Astrotorney Donald Lykkebak claims that, like many others at NASA, his client had been completely flustered and disoriented by an interview the magazine published entitled "10 Questions for William Shatner." The lawyer stated that, even though many at the space agency actually are rocket scientists, nobody could figure out how anyone could come up with ten questions for Williams Shatner.
Asked why he had chosen to go with the unusual Star Trek defense, Lykkebak confessed his preference would have been the traditional "Lisa apologizes to her many admirers throughout the galaxy who may feel let down by this unfortunate. She now realizes she has long had a problem with alcohol and will seek treatment."
However the lawyer also said it was his understanding that all rehab facilities in Orange County would be full of Baldwin brothers for the foreseeable future. He didn't want to think of his client languishing in some detention facility pending a Baldwin release. Lykkebak was then informed that, if anything, the then recently arrested Daniel Baldwin would be committed to a facility in Orange County, California, where he stole the vehicle that led to his arrest -- and not Orange County, Florida, where Ms. Nowak had been taken into custody.
"Now, they tell me," the attorney replied.
Shortly thereafter, the U.S. Navy captain was released from Orlando County Jail on $25,500 bail, after being charged with attempted kidnapping, attempted vehicle burglary with battery, destruction of evidence, and later attempted first degree murder of Florida Air Force captain Colleen Shipman. It has been widely reported that Ms. Nowak viewed Ms. Shipman as a romantic rival for the affections of another astronaut, Space Shuttle pilot William Oefelein.
The attorney had accused prosecutors of piling on additional charges simply to keep his client incarcerated, but only recently revealed the basis for that claim. "How can you steal a car without a battery?" Lykkebak said he had asked in a note to the judge.
As described in her deposition, Ms. Shipman said she became frightened upon noticing that she was being followed to her parked vehicle by a shadowy figure garbed in a trench coat and wearing a wig. Now she explains that at first she thought it might have been the recently deceased Watergate break-in mastermind E. Howard Hunt, returned from the dead. Mr. Hunt had donned a similar disguise while casing the office of Pentagon whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg. In a curious coincidence, police subsequently learned that Captain Nowak had also attempted to break into the Ellsberg office - but only to obtain the name of a good psychiatrist.
In response to Captain Shipman's deposition that she had become suspicious after the other woman boarded the shuttle to the airport parking lot, Ms. Nowak has protested through her attorney, "It said 'shuttle. I'm an astronaut - or as Bill prefers, 'astroness.' It was an honest mistake." Captain Shipman said the woman pounded on the window of her vehicle and tried to open the door, claiming her boyfriend had not shown up at the remote location at 3 a.m to give her a ride.
"Go figure," said the arresting officer.
Crime lab analysis has also shed new light on Ms. Shipman's deposed testimony that when she rolled the window down to better understand what Ms. Nowak was saying, the cosmic culprit sprayed the her with a chemical substance that made her eyes water and irritated mucous membranes. The Orlando police crime lab has now determined the chemical not to have been pepper spray, as originally thought, but an unknown orange powdery/granular substance -with an unusually high residue of Vitamin C.
At the time of her ordeal, Captain Shipman expressed relief that she was still able to drive to the parking lot tollbooth, whereupon the operator notified police. Only recently did she remember she was also grateful to have obtained her engineering degree from Penn State University, rather than from the US Naval Academy as Captain Nowak had.
"Had I accepted an appointment to Annapolis," she told anyone who would listen, "I would have spent four years as Midshipman Shipman. At the time, Marshall, the guy I was dating, was in training to become a US marshal. The only person we would not have been embarrassed to be introduced to at the time was then UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali. It was a real Catch 22. And don't ask who my favorite character was in that," she added.
At the time of her apprehension, Ms. Nowak had been observed dropping several items that later proved to be a wig and BB gun into a trash can. Also in her possession were a steel mallet, a 4-inch folding knife, 4 feet of rubber tubing and plastic garbage bags. A pepper spray canister was subsequently retrieved from Ms. Nowak's parked car, along with an Easy Bake Oven. The oven was immediately turned over to airport TSA representatives for further analysis.
"Thank goodness she didn't get her hands on one of those Vulcan phasers or plasma pistols," Ms. Shipman told authorities. As it is, I wouldn't have even made it to the parking lot
toll booth, had it not been for the after-market deflector shield the Airforce installed on my Ford Fusion as a precaution.
Prosecutors had asked that the celestial crime suspect be denied bail on the grounds that the pepper spray, folding knife, BB gun, steel mallet, rubber tubing, large garbage bags, wig and package of adult diapers showed evidence of prior intent - although they still refuse to speculate of what. Authorities have investigated and found nothing to the Navy captain's explanation that she had been on her way to a Science Fair. However, after extensive recent questioning, she confessed that the adult diaper worn on her 900-mile drive from Houston to Orlando had not been to preclude the need for rest stops as had been widely reported She said the diaper was a safeguard in the event the only rest stops turned out to be Taco Bells.
Following the arrest, authorities cited further incriminating evidence found in the space suspect's vehicle including a Mapquest itinerary from Houston to Orlando, a handwritten map to Captain Shipman's home, and email exchanges between Captain Shipman and Commander Oefelein . They also said some emails sent by Captain Novak herself to actor Robert Blake on the West Coast and a Ms. Amy Fisher on Long Island, New York seemed suspicious in nature.
The prosecution had requested Ms. Nowak be held in remand on the grounds that she posed a flight risk from the planet in order to avoid trial and possible punishment. In an effort to revoke bail, they have now introduced a photograph said to be of the space suspect disguised as a cosmonaut. In the meantime, Ms. Nowak remains outfitted with a GPS ankle monitor that would notify authorities immediately if she were to come anywhere within 47 light years of her alleged intended victim - or George Clooney.
At the time of her arrest, Ms. Nowak, age 43 and the mother of three, told police that her involvement with Commander Oefelein had been "more than a working relationship but less than a romantic relationship." Investigators have now determined what she meant was it was pretty much just sex.
The astronaut had recently separated after 19 years of marriage from her husband, who also works for NASA in Mission Control. Friends began to suspect the relationship was deteriorating last November, when police were called to their Houston home after neighbors reported hearing the sound of dishes being thrown. NASA investigated, but said it had always considered reports of flying saucers to be questionable.
It was speculated the woman's obsession with Oefelein had become so all encompassing that she specifically selected Mr. Lykkebak as her attorney, hoping the excessive number of "k's" in his last name might somehow balance out the ridiculous number of "e's" in Oefelien's. The attorney did confirm the relationship began innocently enough after the Space Shuttle pilot had been mistakenly introduced to Ms. Novak as a Commander "Federlein."
Ms. Nowak's release was delayed several hours, pending the arrival of Steve Lindsey and Christopher Ferguson, the two astronauts NASA had sent to Florida from the Houston's Johnson Space Center to appear on her behalf. We have now learned the reason for that delay. The flight had to bypass Cape Kennedy due to cloud cover and poor visibility and, instead was directed to touch down at Edwards Airforce Base in California. This explains the unusual courtroom outburst that occurred in the interim. Becoming impatient, Captain Nowak had offered to drive the pair back to Florida, but only if they agreed to wear their space diapers, to avoid the need for frequent rest stops at Taco Bell.
In a written statement, Lindsey and Ferguson had told the court they were appearing because NASA was a close family that tried to take care of their own." On advise of NASA counsel, they have now amended that to add "or, in Lisa's case, somebody else's." Also that the true reason they had rushed to Orlando, was not only to show their support for a fellow naval officer, but because they were excited to learn she was not averse to workplace relationships. In her defense, the astronauts also volunteered that Captain Novak had made repeated inquiries as to what she might have missed by not having been in the service at the time of the 1994 Tailhook Convention in the Las Vegas Hilton.
NASA itself has offered to accept some of the blame. A public information officer told reporters they realise suspicions about the former Lisa Marie Caputo should have been raised during last July's Space Shuttle mission, when Captain Nowak requested she be awakened by ground control with the theme from The Godfather. Among Captain Novak's assignments on that mission was delivery of 28,000 lbs. of equipment and supplies to the International Space Station using what NASA described as an Italian-built "moving van" ( http://www.astronautix.com/astros/nowak.htm). Unexplainably, between the Shuttle and the Station, approximately 7,000 lbs. of that cargo apparently "fell off" the van. That cargo has now shown up in a Sugarland, Texas self-storage warehouse.
On that 12-day mission, fellow crew members have now described the orbiting outlaw as "kind of a loner, who kept to herself" - difficult as that may have seemed among 5 other crew members crammed into only a few hundred cubic feet with relatively unpredictable buoyancy. One, who asked to remain anonymous, speculated that Nowak hadn't been "completely right" since being struck by a piece of spermicidal foam that had broken loose from Mr. Oefelein's thruster during one of their docking missions. He later admitted he had only been joking, but all five of the Discovery crew members now have TV development deals for a reality series tentatively entitled "Out of this Real World."
The Orlando excursion might also have had something to do with the post-orbit depression Ms. Nowak allegedly sank into upon learning that exemplary performance on the Space Shuttle mission did not entitle her to a trip to Disney World.
Asked to comment on the unusual assault, Dr. Booger Weintraub, a researcher who has studied astronaut psychology extensively, at the University of Miami's Kissimmee Center for Extraterestrial Fooling Around, said extensive physical and psychological screening during the arduous astronaut training process would have made Ms. Nowak's aberrant behavior extremely unlikely
"Her stability may have been affected by some gyroscopic malfunction," Dr. Weintraub suggested, noting that suitability for astronaut training had come a long way since "you only needed the temperament of a chimp." It was also the researcher's understanding that the predisposition to violence may have resulted from a dissociative period following the Shuttle mission, during which she believed her name was not Lisa Nowak, but Liza Minelli.
In her further defense, a NASA spokesperson has now suggested that, if the astronauts weren't expected to take certain liberties during their training, "why did Congress call it the Johnson Space Flight Center?" She added, "You can do a hell of a lot with those robotic arms."
The Pentagon also clarified that it considered Ms. Nowak's alleged attack on Captain Shipman to be more of a surge than an actual assault, and further suggested the public would be better served if the media returned their attention to Paris Hilton and "that blond girl who disappeared on Aruba."