The Marine Corps staff sergeant who won a free wedding to honor his service is now facing a military court martial on charges of a sex offense involving a teenager.
Sergeant Patrick Ezel of Camp Lejeune and his fiancee were selected as the Craven County winners of a charity wedding from Operation Marry Me Military.
The organization aims to honor active duty military members by selecting a few couples from across the state and giving them a free wedding from flowers to food and all the trimmings of a traditional wedding ceremony and reception.
The Craven County Coordinator for Operation Marry Me Military, Bob Mackowski, tells WITN the charity just learned this week that Staff Sergeant Ezel is facing a court martial in late September on charges of sexually assaulting a minor.
First Lt. Peter Koerner says Ezel is accused of sexually assaulting a 15 year old in September 2011, along with providing the alleged victim with alcohol and pornography. Ezel also faces a charge of sodomy.
The charges were filed against Ezel in early 2012, more than a full year before applying for the Operation Marry Me Military contest.
Lt. Koerner says Ezel is scheduled to go before a military judge on September 25.
Mackowski says the charity does all it can to sort through applicants and their backgrounds, but they do not have access to military court records.
The couple sent a letter to the charity organizers on Wednesday stating they were withdrawing from the wedding due to timing and family issues, but were grateful for the opportunity.
Operation Marry Me Military says they will be announcing a new call for entries for the wedding giveaway soon.