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Ex-astronaut can take off ankle bracelet

  • Story Highlights
  • Former astronaut Lisa Nowak can remove ankle monitoring device, judge says
  • Judge says device not fulfilling its purpose
  • Nowak is accused of assaulting and attempting to kidnap romantic rival
  • Nowak's attorneys have filed a notice of intent to rely on an insanity defense
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(CNN) -- A former NASA astronaut accused of assaulting a romantic rival at a Florida airport can take off her electronic tracking bracelet while she awaits trial, a judge ruled Thursday.


Attorneys for former astronaut Lisa Nowak said her ankle bracelet was uncomfortable and inconvenient.

The bracelet was uncomfortable, inconvenient and cost Lisa Nowak $105 a week, her attorneys argued.

Those reasons alone weren't enough to order the monitor removed, Orange County Circuit Court Judge Marc Lubet said in his ruling. He said the monitoring device was not fulfilling its purpose.

Although the alleged victim, Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman, testified earlier this month that she remains afraid of Nowak and wants the monitor to remain, Shipman "chose to travel to the defendant's hometown of Houston, Texas, on three or four occasions ... to visit her boyfriend" since the incident, Lubet wrote.

"During these trips ... the electronic monitoring GPS device afforded no protection or benefit to Ms. Shipman, as the defendant could freely move about Houston," Lubet wrote. "Under these circumstances, it is clear to this court that the electronic monitoring GPS device does not fulfill its intended purpose of protecting Ms. Shipman."

Lubet also cited Nowak's lack of a prior criminal record.

Nowak is "relieved" to have the device removed, according to a statement issued by defense attorney Don Lykkebak.

"It's a great relief not to worry about safety issues related to the batteries' life while I'm driving," Nowak said in the statement. "I'm also really looking forward to getting back into my former aerobic fitness programs."

Lykkebak's spokeswoman, Marti Mackenzie, said in the statement that Nowak had developed an indentation and abrasions from the device and will now have a chance to heal.

Nowak, 44, 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. Her trial is to begin next month. If convicted she could face a sentence of up to life in prison.

Prosecutors say Nowak drove nearly 900 miles from Houston to Orlando, Florida -- wearing diapers to cut down on the number of stops she needed to make -- and went to Orlando International Airport on February 5. She put on a disguise and followed Shipman from baggage claim to the parking lot, according to court papers.

Shipman told police that after she got into her car, Nowak feigned distress and knocked on the window. When Shipman cracked it to talk to her, Nowak sprayed her face with pepper spray, Shipman said. Police said Nowak was apprehended later as she was disposing of her disguise in an airport trash bin.

Nowak has said she merely went to the airport to talk to Shipman, who had begun dating Nowak's former love interest, Navy Cmdr. Bill Oefelein, who was also an astronaut. Oefelein has since left the astronaut corps.

Nowak's attorneys earlier this month filed a notice of intent to rely on an insanity defense, saying in court documents her diagnoses include a litany of more than a dozen psychiatric disorders.

In his ruling, Lubet noted that Nowak, a Navy captain, would face additional penalties from the military if she were to violate the conditions of her pretrial release.

Nowak has no reason to travel to Florida, where Shipman lives, other than to appear in court, consult with her attorneys or fulfill her military duties, he said, and no reason to travel to Virginia -- where Shipman's boyfriend now lives.

He ordered her to have no contact with Shipman or Oefelein and not to travel to Virginia, Washington, Maryland, Delaware or Brevard County, Florida, without court approval.

Lykkebak said in his statement that Nowak has no problem adhering to the travel restrictions. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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