As we waited outside the courtroom, not even the prosecutors nor the defendant could gain entry until the appointed time. Nowak had to retreat to a private waiting area while the cameras followed her like a cat stalks its prey. I couldn't imagine having that much attention focused on me and I felt a measure of sympathy for her in that moment.
I sat smushed between two reporters and directly behind Colleen Shipman, feeling a bit like a media vulture myself. Originally charged with Burglary of a Dwelling with Assault or Battery, Attempted Kidnapping with Intent to Inflict Harm/Terror with a Weapon, and Battery, the defendant pled to the lesser included offense of Burglary of a Conveyance (5 year maximum penalty) and the misdemeanor Battery (1 year maximum). The State dropped the Attempted Kidnapping charge.
Defense Counsel Donald Lykkebak asked Judge Marc Lubet to treat his client just like anyone else who pled to the identical offenses (Burglary of Conveyance + Battery). I would have to say the Judge Lubet did exactly that. This was a first offense, and judges routinely withhold adjudication on first offenses. I must state that it's a sad commentary that our system allows one "freebie" in terms of one's record for a felony conviction. A misdemeanor maybe. But if you plead to a felony there ought to be a criminal record. Nowak was initially charged with Attempted Murder, although the State declined to proceed on that charge - likely because Nowak's pre-Miranda statements and some evidence were suppressed as a result of police misconduct.
Assistant State Attorney Pam Davis emphatically argued that this is not like your usual Burglary of a Conveyance case and recounted Nowak's numerous stalking behaviors. I agree. So why did the State agree to the plea? I ask again, why wasn't she charged with Aggravated Stalking?
In addition to 1 year's probation, the judge sentenced Nowak to 50 hours of community service. She is permitted to "buy out" her hours at the rate of $10/hour. As a side note, CourtWatch believes this practice unfairly benefits defendants who have the financial resources to avoid having to actually do community service and would like to see the practice eliminated.
She was ordered to have no contact with either Shipman or Oelefein, to write a sincere letter of apology, pay restitution, and to complete an 8-hour anger management course. She is permitted to transfer probation to Texas and must obtain the consent of her probation officer prior to traveling.
Judge Lubet commented that he has no sympathy whatsoever about the impact this case has on her Naval career and retirement, stating "You've brought this all on yourself."
In addition to the apology letter to Shipman, Ms. Nowak ought to consider sending a thank you note to the OPD for botching the case.
Both parties have paid a high price for Nowak's assault. Now that they no longer have the spectre of this case hanging over their heads, I hope the media leaves them alone to heal and get on with their lives.
To watch the complete hearing, click here.
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