Sex Offenses for 3 Senior Army Officers End with Plea Deals and Reprimands

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February 16, 2024
Volumes of “Court-Martial Reports” line the bookshelf in a courtroom

Three senior Army officers who faced charges related to sexual offenses in separate and unrelated cases all received reprimands through plea deals within the past two months.

The officers were all lieutenant colonels. One hid cameras in changing rooms used by teen girls; another allegedly had sex with a trainee and tried to move on another in a public bathroom; and another commander frequently sexually harassed a subordinate and allegedly struck another officer.

The outcomes of the cases and relatively light sentences for the offenses may underscore a widely held perception in the Army that higher-ranking officials can more easily navigate the service’s judicial system and are more likely to emerge with their criminal records free of blemishes.

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Reprimands are punitive public censures and among the least severe judicial punishments in the military. While they can be career-killers, reprimands do not automatically impact a discharge status — meaning someone can retire with all their benefits and pay intact, all while having a clean criminal record as far as the civilian world is concerned.

Lt. Col. Mark Patterson, who was commander of the 941st Military Police Battalion while it was on a mission at the southern U.S. border, was convicted by a military judge in January — following a plea deal — of one specification of assault consummated by a battery, one specification of sexual harassment, and one specification of maltreatment.

It was unclear the specific accusations he pleaded guilty to.

On multiple occasions between October 2022 and January 2023, Patterson allegedly made numerous advances on a female first lieutenant, according to his charge sheet.

Patterson told her he got an erection when he thought of her, and requested she wear a “beer garden babe” outfit, according to court documents. He also sent her “personal” photos of himself, winked at her, touched her shoulders and back, and pressured her to spend time with him, including inviting her to a hotel room and dinner, the documents show.

During the same time frame, Patterson also allegedly made advances on a female sergeant under his command. Court records say he asked her to rub Icy Hot ointment on his shoulders and commented that she looked like his ex-girlfriend, whom he noted died by suicide. As with the officer, Patterson also allegedly sent the sergeant personal text messages, touched her back and pressured her to spend personal time with him, which also included an invite to a hotel room and dinner. Eventually, he “shamed” her for unfriending him on social media, the documents said.

He also told subordinates that he “is unstoppable and that he has beaten numerous investigations into allegations made against him,” and that if he were ever under investigation, he expected his subordinates to “deny, deny, deny,” according to the court documents.

In an apparently unrelated incident, Patterson struck a captain’s head with his hand in November 2022. It’s unclear what led up to that confrontation. He also allegedly “wrongfully” kept an animal, though it’s unclear what kind of animal and what the nature of him keeping it was.

Patterson’s lawyer did not respond to a request for comment ahead of publication.

Meanwhile, Lt. Col. Jonny Gonzalez was also handed a reprimand as part of a plea deal in December. He was found guilty on one count of conduct unbecoming an officer. Gonzalez did not return a request for comment.

In August 2021, Gonzalez, who was assigned to U.S. Army South, was accused of having oral sex, among other sexual acts, with a junior enlisted naval trainee at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, in a public bathroom in front of a retired noncommissioned officer and “in proximity” of others who entered the bathroom, according to his charge sheet.

He also allegedly kissed another junior enlisted naval trainee. Gonzalez is in the midst of leaving the Army, according to a service spokesperson. However, he will likely retire at his current rank and have full access to benefits, given the light nature of reprimands.

Finally, Lt. Col. Jacob Sweatland, who formerly led California Polytechnic State University’s ROTC program and served as a senior instructor, was arrested in September 2022 after being caught hiding a camera in a changing room at a PacSun, a clothing retailer predominantly for teens and young adults, in Pismo Beach, California. 

The camera was discovered by a 16-year-old girl. When Sweatland called the store asking whether anyone found his “key fob,” authorities were waiting for him at the store when he came to retrieve it. Mustang News, a campus news outlet, reported at the time that the camera contained images from numerous locations, including other clothing stores and a gym.

As part of a plea deal, he was given a reprimand in January on one specification of indecent visual recording and one specification of conduct unbecoming an officer, according to a service spokesperson. Sweatland is currently assigned to the 8th Reserve Officers’ Training Corps Brigade based out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.

Local authorities gave the case to the Army, thinking the service could be more punitive. District Attorney Dan Dow last year cited limited laws to charge Sweatland, according to reporting from Cal Coast News. It’s unclear whether Sweatland will have to register as a sex offender.

Related: Army ROTC Instructor Who Pleaded Guilty to Hiding Camera in Changing Room Gets Reprimand

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