Move to Seal Fired Astronaut’s Court Papers Reversed

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A judge presiding over the trial of fired astronaut Lisa Marie Nowak reversed his own ruling to seal some court documents, making possible the release of further papers as early as next week.

Orange Circuit Court Judge Marc Lubet issued a written statement Thursday evening, reversing a temporary, verbal order he issued hours before to stop the Orange-Osceola State Attorney’s Office from releasing any documents sought under Florida’s open records law.

Nowak is accused of trying to kidnap a rival for a space shuttle pilot’s affections.

The case has drawn international attention, and Lubet said he was “just trying to keep the media frenzy down to a dull roar.”

Lubet said he won’t stop prosecutors from releasing any additional records, with the exception of psychological evaluations or notices of an insanity defense.

“I further considered my position and decided that everything should be released except the psychological reports,” Lubet told a newspaper reporter. “The state can send out whatever they want.”

Nowak was fired from NASA about a month after her Feb. 5 arrest. Police say she drove from Houston to Florida to confront Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman in an Orlando airport parking lot and then pepper-sprayed her. Shipman, who was dating astronaut Bill Oefelein, was able to get away.

Police reported finding a BB gun, steel mallet, knife and rubber tubing in Nowak’s car.

Nowak, 43, a married mother of three, has pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted kidnapping, burglary with assault and battery. She is free on bail but did not attend the hearing Thursday.

Some documents in the case were due for public release under state law as early as this week, prosecutors told the judge. Defense attorney Donald Lykkebak, however, said the release of some of those documents, such as the search warrant papers for Nowak’s car, would violate her privacy.

Some private records were already released last month. Several hundred pages of documents, including police statements and e-mails between Oefelein and Shipman, were released by prosecutors, confirming publicly for the first time that Oefelein had a romantic relationship with Nowak.

Lykkebak did not immediately return phone calls left at this office Friday.

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