NASA Whacks Nowak

No surprise here, but you have to love the weaselly bureaucratic gobbledygook

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — An astronaut charged with trying to kidnap a woman she allegedly believed was a romantic rival was fired by NASA on Wednesday, a month after she was arrested in Florida.
NASA officials said Lisa Nowak’s dismissal did not reflect on the space agency’s belief in her guilt or innocence. The agency said it lacked an administrative system to handle the allegations.
“Because Nowak is a naval officer on assignment to NASA, rather than a NASA civil servant, she is not subject to administrative action by NASA,” agency officials said in a statement.

I love that. “We don’t have the administrative system to handle the allegations”. Nothing about “we really don’t want some nut job riding horse on our trillion dollar toys”. If “[her] dismissal did not reflect on the space agency’s belief in her guilt or innocence”, then may I ask what it does reflect on?

9 Responses to “NASA Whacks Nowak”

  1. Dave E. says:

    Yeah, that is a bit mealy-mouthed. On the other hand, she’s facing some sort of action from the Navy and this may just be the first step, officially returning her to Navy service. Since she’s not convicted of anything, NASA can’t really say any more.
    Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I think she can be tried under both state law and the UCMJ for the same offenses. Either way, administrative actions from NASA are the least of her worries.

  2. The_Real_JeffS says:

    Theoretically, Dave, yes, she could be charged, although “double jeopardy” might be involved.
    In reality, unless it’s a crime against another service member or committed on the installation (i.e., within military jurisdiction), the military usually gives first shot to civil authorities. IIRC, the commander can request transfer to military jurisdiction, but I don’t know if that ever happens (I recall only one time myself).
    I expect she’ll be charged under the applicable civil laws. If convicted of a felony, it’s an automatic discharge (unless she is allowed to resign or retire before being convicted). If not convicted, they could charge her “conduct unbecoming an officer” or somesuch, and kick her out. Depends on the commander, and just what sort of career she really had.

  3. Dave E. says:

    Jeff-It’s been 18 years since my discharge so this is a bit hazy, but I seem to remember commanders threatening us enlisted about how there was no double-jeopardy for us. To paraphrase, “When the civilians are done with you, your ass is mine”. I never saw that actually, so maybe it was just talk.
    Besides, we were such fine fellows back in the early 80s. 🙂

  4. The_Real_JeffS says:

    Ha! Yes, I’m sure that you were all fine fellows! I know I was.
    But I’m guessing that your commander referred to non-judicial punishment, aka “Article 15″….which is another aspect of UCMJ, enforced by the commander, not the legal system. In which case, your ass would most assuredly be his.
    I was thinking about the judicial side, which are the equivalent of a felony conviction. Article 15s are rather like misdemeanors.
    (If I’m wrong, folks, lemme know….it’s been a while since I was involved with Article 15s.)
    That’s another avenue for the military; Nowak could be handed a nasty Article 15 including, IIRC, a demotion (depends on a number of factors, but I recall a few flags officers being handled the same way), and sent out to pasture. No awards, she keeps her retirement, only at a lower pay grade.
    As I said, it depends on the commander.

  5. Mike Rentner says:

    From Wade v. Hunter 336 U.S. 684 United States Supreme Court, 1949.
    The interpretation and application of the Fifth Amendment’s double-jeopardy provision have bene considered chiefly in civil rather than military court proceedings. Past cases have decided that a defendant, put to trial before a jury, may be subjected to the kind of ‘jeopardy’ that bars a second trial for the same offense even though his trial is discontinued without a verdict. See Kepner v. United States, 195 U.S. 100, 128, 24 S.Ct. 797, 804, 49 L.Ed. 114, 1 Ann.Cas. 655; cf. Palko v. Connecticut, 302 U.S. 319, 322-323, 58 S.Ct. 149, 150, 82 L.Ed. 288. The same may be true where a judge trying a case without a jury fails for some reason to enter a judgment. McCarthy v. Zerbst, 10 Cir., 85 F.2d 640, 642. The double-jeopardy provision of the Fifth Amendment, however, does not mean that every time a defendant is put to trial before a competent tribunal he is entitled to go free if the trial fails to end in a final judgment. Such a rule would create an insuperable obstacle to the administration of justice in many cases in which there is no semblance of the *689 type of oppressive practices at which the double-jeopardy prohibition is aimed.

  6. Mike Rentner says:

    And from the manual for courts martial:
    (2) Waivable grounds. A charge or specification
    shall be dismissed upon motion made by the accused
    before the final adjournment of the court-martial in
    that case if:
    (C) The accused has previously been tried by
    court-martial or federal civilian court for the same
    offense, provided that:
    (i) No court-martial proceeding is a trial in
    the sense of this rule unless presentation of evidence
    on the general issue of guilt has begun;
    (ii) No court-martial proceeding which has
    been terminated under R.C.M. 604(b) or R.C.M. 915
    shall bar later prosecution for the same offense or
    offenses, if so provided in those rules;
    (iii) No court-martial proceeding in which an
    accused has been found guilty of any charge or
    specification is a trial in the sense of this rule until
    the finding of guilty has become final after review
    of the case has been fully completed; and
    (iv) No court-martial proceeding which lacked
    jurisdiction to try the accused for the offense is
    a trial in the sense of this rule.

  7. Mike Rentner says:

    But I remember being taught that if you’re tried in civilian court and stuck in jail for 20 years, when you finally get released you can be charged with unauthorized absence.
    I always thought that was hilarious.

  8. The_Real_JeffS says:

    Heh! AWOL for being in the state pen……I’ll bet that one hasn’t put to the test!
    Thanks for the word on double jeopardy, Mike. Now I know.

  9. Mike Rentner says:

    I’m pretty sure it has been done. I doubt anyone got more time in the brig for it, I suspect it was used to justify a dishonorable discharge.

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