December Trial Set for Ex-Astronaut

Pretrial Hearing Set for Former NASA Astronaut
Former NASA astronaut Lisa M. Nowak participates in an exercise in the systems engineering simulator at Johnson Space Center for her STS-121 mission in 2006. (Image credit: NASA)

Florida's Orange CountyCircuit Court Judge Marc Lubet has set a Dec. 7 trialdate for former astronaut Lisa Nowak.

A pretrial hearing isscheduled for Nov. 10.

Investigators say Nowakdrove 1,000 miles from Houston to Orlando International Airport to allegedlystalkand attack love rival Colleen Shipman in the airport's blue parking lot inthe early-morning hours of Feb. 5, 2007. Nowak is charged with attemptedkidnapping, battery and attempted burglary with assault.

Shipman's attorney, Kepler Funk, said he is glad the case is finally going tobe heard -- nearly three years after the incident.

"The fact that it'sscheduled in 2009 is encouraging," Funk said sarcastically. But he added,"I have been on both sides of wanting cases to move along faster thanothers, and I've had cases where they take a significant amount of time to getprepared. And I would never presume to know what (Nowak's attorney) thinks,other than I'm confident he's advocating for his client 100 percent. I don'tfault him one iota. It is what it is, and we'll be there when they tell us tobe there."

The scheduling came aboutTuesday, when prosecutor Pam Davis and Nowak's attorney, Donald Lykkebak, both had unrelated business before Lubet, court spokeswoman Karen Levy said.

Lubet decided to handle the Nowak matterthen, as well.

A previously scheduledstatus hearing for Friday was canceled.

Shipman told police thatNowak had pepper-sprayedher and tried to get into her car.

Nowak also carried with hera duffel bag. Inside were a BB pistol, a 4-inch hunting knife, a rubber mallet,garbage bags, latex gloves and surgical tubing. A receipt found in the bagshows Nowak bought some of the items at a Sports Authority the day she leftHouston to travel to Orlando.

Nowak told detectives sheonly wanted to talk with Shipman and had brought the items as a way to forceShipman to sit with her and listen.

Both women were vying forthe affection of astronaut William Oefelein. NASA fired both Nowakand Oefelein following the incident.

Lykkebakfiled a motion in April to dismiss the case after discovering a paramedic'sreport that states Shipman "denied any direct contact with the pepperspray and was not experiencing any burning sensation or any medicalproblems."

Theparamedic arrived on the scene after Shipman already had cleaned her eyes outwith a wet paper towel. She was unaware of Nowak's identity until several hourslater, when a detective told her who had allegedly attacked her.

In addition, Lykkebak stated during a court hearing following Nowak'sarrest that his client had pepper-sprayed Shipman.

"What we have here isa desperate woman who wants to have a conversation with another woman," Lykkebak said in court on Feb. 6, 2007. "She doesn'tshoot her. She doesn't stab her. She doesn't do anything except spray her withpepper spray. She just wants to talk to her."

A hearing on the motion todismiss the case likely will be held before the November pretrial hearing.

At the time of theincident, Nowak recently had separated from her husband, Richard. They havesince divorced.

Oefelein and Shipman live together inAnchorage, Alaska, and run a freelance adventure-writing site on the Internet.

Nowak remains under courtorder to stay away from the couple.

Published underlicense from FLORIDA TODAY. Copyright ? 2009 FLORIDA TODAY. Noportion of this material may be reproduced in any way without the writtenconsent of FLORIDA TODAY.



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