CAPE CANAVERAL, FLA. — Astronaut Lisa Marie Nowak could face serious legal trouble aside from the charges leveled against her in criminal court.
As an active-duty Navy captain, Nowak is subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. That means Navy authorities could claim jurisdiction and court-martial Nowak for conduct unbecoming an officer.
Legal experts say that is not likely. Usually, the Navy defers to civilian authorities in these cases and takes appropriate action after the civilian legal process is complete. A conviction on attempted murder charges in civilian court almost certainly would mean a discharge from the Navy.
"I would be very surprised if the Navy gets involved in this," said James Klimaski, a Washington attorney who specializes in military law. "They'll probably wait until this is over, then administratively handle the matter."
Offenses such as adultery also are punishable under military law. Nowak, a married mother of three, could be subject to sanctions if she is found to have had an extramarital affair. However, Klimaski said, adultery is seldom prosecuted by military authorities these days.
Astronaut William A. Oefelein, reportedly the object of Nowak's affection, is a divorced Navy commander. He also would be subject to punishment for any offenses under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.