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Navy chaplain gets 2 years for sex abuse

Crime, Law and JusticeArmed ForcesTrials and ArbitrationDefenseSexual AssaultJustice SystemChristianity

A Navy chaplain was sentenced to two years of confinement Thursday for exposing a fellow officer to HIV, forcing a midshipman to have oral sex and urging lower-ranking officers who sought his guidance to photograph him while he was naked.

Lt. Cmdr. John Thomas Matthew Lee, who had been stationed at the U.S. Naval Academy and Marine Corps Base Quantico, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault, forcible sodomy, conduct unbecoming of an officer and misuse of government computers. He was sentenced to 12 years of confinement, all but two of which were suspended.

"I would like to apologize for all the harm I have done," Lee, a 42-year-old Catholic priest, said at his court-martial in Quantico.

The prosecutor, Marine Corps Maj. Derek Brostek, said investigators discovered misconduct involving four victims over the last four years.

"His selfishness is so strong he was willing to destroy the lives of others to make himself happy," Brostek said.

David Sheldon, one of Lee's lawyers, said his client was grateful for the short sentence -- he likely will serve 18 months -- but was remorseful.

"I think he recognizes that his breach of confidence as a chaplain is absolutely terrible and unforgivable," Sheldon said.

Lee learned that he had HIV in April 2005, according to court testimony. Investigators are not aware that any of his sexual partners have contracted HIV, said Maj. Tim Keefe, a Marine spokesman.

Lee attended the hearing dressed in his military uniform.

The judge, Marine Corps Col. Steven Day, read portions of an 11-page summary of the events that led to the charges, at points asking Lee to provide details and answer questions.

As part of the plea agreement, Lee agreed to disclose to health officials the names and other identifying information about all his sexual partners in the last four years.

Lee said in court that he would disclose all the names he could remember.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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