The winner of a free wedding who is facing a general court martial on sexual assault charges against a minor has now declined the prize.
Marine Staff Sgt. Patrick Ezel and his fiancée, who is from Havelock, were announced last week as one of five couples selected by Operation Marry Me Military to receive a free wedding on Nov. 11 of this year. Ezel emailed Operation Marry Me Military founder Alecia Geddings on Wednesday to decline the prize.
“We are sad to inform you that we are not going to accept the Operation Marry Me Military wedding package for Craven County,” read the email from Ezel to Geddings, which she said was received on Wednesday. “Due to some timing issues, planning and family schedules, we have scheduled our wedding for a later date.”
She said Operation Marry Me Military was not aware of the pending court martial and had no way of discovering it. She said a statewide records search did not turn up the pending court martial.
Ezel, according to prosecuting attorney 1st Lt. Brett Sheneman, will be subject to a general court martial by jury from Sept. 25 to 27 for allegedly sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy, sodomy, providing alcohol to a minor and showing pornography to a minor. All of the alleged incidents reportedly occurred in September 2011.
When reached by a reporter, he declined to comment on the accusations.
After the winners of this year’s contest were announced, Geddings learned that Ezel was facing sexual assault charges.
“It saddens me when an event such as a wedding is supposed to be a happy and joyous time, that it has been turned into something sad for everyone involved and it’s a shame,” Geddings said. “This should be a happy time and I hate that my winners, county directors and other Operation Marry Me Military vendors have had to be affected by this.”
Geddings said that she is praying for everyone involved in this “unfortunate” situation. Additional changes will be made to the current applications, asking whether applicants have been convicted of a felony, are facing pending criminal charges and if they are in good standing with the military.
“We have revised the application to ensure that this will never happen again,” Geddings said.
Operation Marry Me Military is now searching for a new couple to win a Nov. 11, wedding.
“We have got vendors who are lined up and ready to give. We have got a director who has been working on this since Nov. 12 of 2012 last year and we are ready, willing and wanting to continue to give back to those who give their all,” she said.
For information or an application, email firstname.lastname@example.org.