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Love triangle astronaut asks court to throw out evidence

world Updated: Sep 19, 2007 21:35 IST

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Former US astronaut Lisa Nowak on Wednesday asked a Florida court to throw out key evidence she claims was obtained illegally when she was arrested for allegedly attacking a romantic rival.

Nowak had driven half-way across the United States allegedly to carry out the attack, wearing a diaper to avoid having to make restroom stops.

The former astronaut, who was present at Tuesday's hearing in Orlando wants the court to throw out statements she made to police upon her arrest and evidence taken during what she says was an illegal search of her car.

A mother of three who has flown aboard Space Shuttle Discovery, Nowak, 44, was arrested on February 5 after she allegedly doused her romantic rival, Colleen Shipman, with pepper spray at the Orlando International Airport.

Prosecutors claim Nowak, who had driven 1,500 kilometers (900 miles) from Houston, Texas, thought Shipman, a US Air Force captain, shared her romantic interest in NASA shuttle pilot Bill Oefelein.

Her lawyer claims that upon her arrest, she was held for three hours before she was interrogated and was then questioned for a further five hours. In the motion to dismiss the statements Nowak made to police, attorney Donald Lykkebak said his client was not properly informed of her constitutional rights, was deprived of sleep and was not permitted a phone call.

But police Detective William Becton, who had conducted the interrogation testified on Wednesday that he duly notified Nowak of her rights, including the right to remain silent.

"I asked her is she was willing to discuss the incident ... she never said she didn't want to discuss it with me," Becton told the court.

The officer listed the items found in a search of Nowak's car, which included a steel mallet, a serrated knife and a loaded pellet gun, which he described as the type of items "that have been used and can be used to kill someone."

Lykkebak claims in the motion to suppress the evidence that the contents of the vehicle were "illegally seized without a search warrant."

Nowak is charged with attempted kidnapping, attempted burglary and battery and is scheduled to go on trial next year.

Her lawyer has filed notice he will argue that Nowak was temporarily insane at the time of the incident, saying the psychiatric diagnosis includes obsessive-compulsive disorder, partner relational problems and insomnia.

Following the incident, Nowak was fired from her job with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), but she remains an officer in the US Navy.

Her saga has drawn widespread media coverage, under headlines such as "Astronutty," "Astronaughty" and "Houston, we have a problem."