Ex-Astronaut Lisa Nowak Pleads Guilty; Must Write Letter of Apology

Colleen Shipman says every stranger is "a potential attacker."

ByABC News via logo
November 11, 2009, 6:13 AM

Nov. 11, 2009— -- The woman who was assaulted by former NASA astronaut Lisa Nowak Tuesday described the surreal assault, telling a Florida judge that she thought she was going to die.

"I knew it in my heart that when Lisa Nowak attacked me, she was going to kill me," Colleen Shipman told Circuit Court Judge Marc L. Lubet at Nowak's sentencing. "It was in her eyes: limitless, blood-chilling expression of limitless rage."

Nowak, a Navy captain, drove 1,000 miles from Houston to Orlando, Fla., in February 2007, wearing a diaper so she wouldn't have to make any bathrroom stops, and confronted Shipman in the parking lot of Orlando International Airport about her relationship with a shuttle pilot with whom Nowak had had a relationship.Shipman was hit with pepper spray but managed to escape.

Nowak, 46, pleaded guilty Tuesday to third-degree felony burglary and misdemeanor battery. She originally had been charged with two felonies -- attempted kidnapping and burglary -- along with misdemeanor battery. She could have faced up to life in prison under the more serious felony charges.

Under the plea deal, she agreed to a year of probation and 50 hours of community service.

Shipman, a former Air Force captain who worked at Patrick Air Force Base near the Kennedy Space Center near Cape Canaveral, told the judge that she is tormented by the memory of the attack.

"Every stranger I see is a potential attacker, going out in public is exhausting," she said. "I constantly look over my shoulder to keep track of everyone around me."

Nowak apologized as she pleaded guilty to the crime.

"I'm glad to have the opportunity to apologize to Colleen Shipman in person," Nowak, a married mother of three, said.

The judge made her turn to face her victim.

"I'm sincerely sorry for causing fear and misunderstanding, and all the public exposure you have suffered," she told Shipman.

In addition to her sentence, the judge also told Nowak to write a sincere letter of apology to Shipman.