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Ex-astronaut apologizes to romantic rival

  • Story Highlights
  • Lisa Nowak apologizes to the woman she is accused of assaulting
  • Officer testifies he properly read Nowak her rights
  • Nowak's lawyer insists his client was "Mirandized" incorrectly
  • Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman testifies she is still afraid of Nowak
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ORLANDO, Florida (CNN) -- Former NASA astronaut Lisa Nowak apologized Friday to the woman she is accused of assaulting at the Orlando International Airport, saying she was "sorry to have frightened her in any way."


Former astronaut Lisa Nowak testifies at a hearing at the Orange County courthouse in Orlando, Florida, Friday.

In her first public statement since she allegedly stalked Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman on February 5 and used pepper spray against her in a Florida airport parking lot, Nowak said, "The past six months have been very difficult for me, my family and others close to me."

"I know that it also must have 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."

Nowak said she has been "shocked and overwhelmed" at the media coverage and has received several media offers for interviews, which she has refused.

"I do not see any possible way that additional exposure will help anyone involved. Therefore at this time, I have no plans to further discuss this unfortunate episode in a public forum."

She thanked people for their "generosity, insight and support."

Her comments came after an hours-long pretrial hearing for motions filed by her attorney.

Nowak's lawyer contended Friday that the Orlando, Florida, police officer who interviewed his client after an alleged assault on her rival did not properly tell Nowak her rights.

During cross-examination in the Orlando courtroom, Don Lykkebak accused police officer William Becton of "ad-libbing" when he read Nowak her Miranda rights, including her constitutional rights to an attorney and to remain silent.

Reading from transcripts of Becton's interview of Nowak, Lykkebak also accused the officer of offering help to Nowak -- "to step up to the plate for her" -- to try to get her to talk before reading her rights.

"Aren't you offering her a bargain?" Lykkebak asked.

"No, sir," Becton responds.

"Will you talk to me? This comes in the front end. And you never ask her, 'Now that you've heard your rights, do you still want to talk to me?' " Lykkebak said. "You have settled the issue in advance of the advice."

Becton denied the allegations, accusing the lawyer of misinterpreting his comments.

The pretrial hearing adjourned Friday afternoon, but will continue at an as yet undetermined date.

The 9th Circuit Court judge, Marc L. Lubet, said he expects the hearing will take about six more hours.

Lykkebak is asking the judge to throw out Nowak's statements to police and suppress evidence collected from her car.

He contends Nowak's car was searched without a warrant and without her permission, according to The Associated Press.

Lykkebak also says his client gave the interview under duress, when she was deprived of sleep after being held for three hours. He also contends, according to court filings, that Nowak was not allowed a phone call and unadvised of her constitutional rights, the AP reported.

Before his cross-examination, Becton testified that he had read Nowak her rights.

He said Nowak was asked before her police interview if she wanted an attorney and she declined.

Police have said Nowak gave them permission to search her car, a four-door BMW, which was parked away from the airport.

Under questioning by Assistant State Attorney Pamela Davis, Becton said he methodically searched the car and found used diapers rolled up in a plastic garbage bag on the floor of her car's back seat.

"Having changed diapers before, I asked her if they were used diapers, and she indicated that they were," Becton testified.

"My concern was that there was a child unaccounted for," he said.

However, she said there was no child.

"In the trunk were maybe 30 to 40 unused baby diapers ... they looked like they could probably fit a 1-year-old, give or take a few months.

"I asked her where the used diapers came from," the officer said. "She said she used diapers to pee so she didn't have to make so many stops."

Police have said they seized weapons and photos inside a duffel bag, a steel mallet, a 4-inch buck knife and a loaded BB gun. They also found an alleged "plan," which was written on paper and included flight information and directions.

Nowak, 44, took the stand Friday in a bid to have her ankle-bracelet GPS monitor removed. She testified the device is restrictive and hazardous when she drives. Video Watch Nowak in court »

The monitor is intended to keep her from traveling to Brevard County, Florida, where Shipman lives.

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Nowak was ordered on February 6 to wear the device as part of her pretrial release.

Shipman also testified Friday and told Lubet she was still afraid of Nowak and felt safe knowing the monitor was in place.

When Lubet asked her, "Do you want her taken off the ankle monitor?" Shipman answered, "Absolutely not."

Under cross-examination, Nowak said she could find ways to get around the drawbacks of the device.

NASA ended Nowak's assignment as an astronaut in March after she allegedly assaulted Shipman, who was dating Nowak's former boyfriend, Navy Cmdr. Bill Oefelein.

Nowak, a captain in the U.S. Navy, allegedly drove nearly 900 miles from Houston, Texas, to Orlando -- wearing diapers to cut down on the number of stops she needed to make -- in order to confront Shipman, according to an initial police report. Her lawyer has since denied she was wearing any type of diaper.

She was arrested in the parking lot at Orlando International Airport after Shipman said Nowak attacked her. Airport surveillance tapes show Nowak donning a disguise before Shipman arrived, then following her, police said.

Shipman told police that Nowak approached her car in the airport parking lot and asked her for help with a dead battery.

"I cracked my window open about two inches and told her I'd send someone to help her," Shipman said. "She said, 'Please help me,' and then started spraying something from a skinny black can into my window.'"

Police said the can held pepper spray.

Nowak pleaded not guilty March 22 to charges of attempted kidnapping with intent to inflict bodily harm, battery and burglary of a vehicle using a weapon. The trial is to begin next month.

If convicted in the February 5 incident, Nowak could face a sentence of up to life in prison.

Pending the resolution of the criminal charges against her, Nowak is assigned to the Corpus Christi Naval Air Station in Texas.


Oefelein, who left NASA in June, told investigators he and Nowak had been involved in a sexual relationship, but he ended it in January.

He said Nowak "appeared to take the news well." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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