WPAFB gate crasher pleads guilty to trespassing, other charges

A Beavercreek man accused of driving through a Wright-Patterson Air Force Base gateway and entering a restricted-access building in a sensitive research facility pleaded guilty in federal court Friday to trespassing.

Edward J. Novak, 32, also pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Dayton to operating a vehicle under the influence, and disorderly conduct in the presence of law enforcement in connection with the Nov. 24, 2015 incident.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael J. Newman ordered a pre-sentencing report with the probation department prior to sentencing at a future date.

With his guilty plea, Novak bypassed a bench trial.

He refused comment after the hearing.

In exchange for his plea, charges of assault, making false alarms, inducing panic, failure to comply with a lawful order, and fleeing and eluding a police officer were dropped.

Novak, who was not a Wright-Patterson employee nor authorized to be on base, was accused of driving away from Gate 22B near Interstate 675 after a sentry ordered him to pull over to the side of the road after he tried to gain entry. Minutes later, he entered Building 620 in the Air Force Research Laboratory Sensor’s Directorate through a door someone exited, authorities have said.

The security breach caused a major disruption, leading to the hours-long evacuation of hundreds of employees in two AFRL buildings and a shelter in place order at a nearby child care center.

Police blocked roads on and off the base in Area B while area law enforcement agencies, the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, the Wright-Patterson Fire Department and an Air Force Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team responded.

While recounting the charges in court Friday, assistant U.S. attorney Julienne McCammon said a sentry questioned Novak about his purpose for trying to get on base. Novak told the sentry “it was personal,” McCammon told the judge. “He just needed to speak to leadership.”

McCammon also said in court that medical tests administered on Novak after he was detained by base security forces detected methamphetamine.

According to authorities’ prior statements, Novak had initially complied with a sentry’s order to pull off the side of the road, but then drove off, eventually making his way through a door someone had exited into Building 620.

Novak was questioned by an employee who noticed he did not have a security badge, and base security forces were notified, officials have said.

McCammon told the judge that as police escorted Novak to a patrol car in handcuffs, “he began to yell inflammatory statements” and was stopped twice. She did not elaborate further.

In December, a court-ordered evaluation determined the defendant "did not know the wrongfulness of his actions at the time of the offense in this alleged case."

In questioning before Newman on Friday, Novak acknowledged to the judge he was competent to stand trial. Federal public defender Cheryll A. Bennett represented Novak in court.

Wright-Patterson has denied a Freedom of Information Act request from this news organization for records pertaining to the security breach.

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