The U.S. Army says it will wait for criminal charges against a suspended soldier to be resolved before deciding if it will take internal action.
Jonathan Pentland, a sergeant 1st class and instructor at Fort Jackson, was charged with the assault of a young Black man that was captured on a widely shared video.
“We are allowing the civilian system to finish their judicial process first,” Fort Jackson spokeswoman Leslie Ann Sully said Sunday in a news release.
Pentland was suspended by the Army after he was arrested on the criminal charge. Additionally, the Army opened an investigation on Pentland and can take action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Sully said.
Despite that, Fort Jackson is letting the legal system play out first.
“SFC Pentland has been charged by Richland County for his actions on April 12th. While I have the authority to take action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice or take other administrative actions, I have the utmost confidence in our civilian criminal system and trust that it will reach a fair and just resolution of this case,” Fort Jackson Commanding Gen. Milford Beagle Jr. said in a statement. “I do not want to take any actions now that could interfere with the fair resolution of civilian criminal charges.
“Your Army is committed to confronting racism, extremism, and corrosive behaviors, but I must remain mindful of protecting due process in both the civil and military jurisdictions as this proceeds.”
The video, which has gained national attention, shows Pentland interrogating the Black man about what he is doing in the Columbia neighborhood and then repeatedly telling him to leave, police said. He pushes the Black man at one point.
On April 14, the 42-year-old Pentland was charged with third-degree assault and battery, Richland County court records show.
“It was terrible. It was unnecessary,” Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said. “The young man was a victim. The man we arrested was the aggressor.”
After being booked at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center on the assault charge, Pentland was released on a $2,125 personal recognizance bond, court records show. A condition of his release is that he avoid all contact with the victim, and Pentland must stay 1,000 yards from the victim’s place of work, home, school or place of worship, according to court records.
If convicted on the misdemeanor assault charge, Pentland could face a maximum sentence of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine, according to South Carolina law.
On April 15, protesters marched from the South Carolina State House to the Richland County Judicial Center, calling for Pentland’s charge to be upgraded to kidnapping. They also wanted federal prosecutors to bring a hate crime charge against Pentland.
In spite of his suspension, Pentland continues to serve the Army in an administrative capacity, according to Beagle.
“I want to reiterate that the command in no way condones the behaviors and actions depicted (in the video) posted to social media, Beagle said. “Those behaviors are absolutely counter to the Army values and professionalism expected of soldiers, both on and off duty.”
Pentland has been stationed at Fort Jackson since 2019, where he has worked as a drill sergeant, the Associated Press reported.
Fort Jackson is the Army’s largest training installation, with more than 50,000 recruits assigned there each year.
“The reputation and esteem of your Army at Fort Jackson has taken a terrible blow these past two weeks. I intend to work closely with (community leaders) to reestablish the mutual trust and kinship engendered by years of determined cooperation,” Beagle said.
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