Capt. Lisa Nowack: legal update

On February 10, I wrote in AT about NASA Capt. Lisa Nowak ("Lisa Nowak's Criminal Liability.")  In that column, I pointed out that those legal commentators who were claiming she had minimal legal jeopardy were grossly mistaken.  I also mentioned that the attempted murder charge against here was probably excessive, but considering the gravely serious felony charges that appeared justified, it hardly mattered if the attempted murder charge was dropped.  At that time, her charges had been filed by the police, and were awaiting refinement by the State Attorney's Office (the prosecutor).

On March 2, the Orange County State Attorney's Office filed its formal charges against Capt. Nowak (they may be found here).  These charges now include:

Burglary with Assault or Battery (armed)--maximum sentence of life 

Attempted Kidnapping (armed)--maximum sentence of 30 years

The attempted murder charge has indeed been dropped. 

If found guilty of either of these felonies, the minimum guideline sentence would be 4 years prison.  If found guilty of both, the minimum sentence would be 82.5 months prison.  However, a judge is legally allowed to set aside these guidelines if he finds that certain mitigating factors are present.  Capt. Nowak probably has at least two of those mitigating factors on her side (the crime was an isolated incident, and she may have psychological problems for which treatment would be more appropriate than prison).  

So I will stand by my prediction that she will ultimately plead guilty to two lesser felonies (probably false imprisonment and simple burglary), and be sentenced to 6-12 months in a lockdown mental facility, followed by a lengthy (4-8 years) term of probation. 

Philip Averbuck is a criminal defense attorney who practices in Polk County, Florida.