A couple set to tie the knot in an $18,000 Tryon Palace event this November has given up their free wedding, amid sexual assault allegations against.
SSgt. Patrick Ezel an active-duty Marine with Camp Lejeune's 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, and his fiance were chosen as winners of Operation Marry Me Military's 2013 Craven County Wedding.
They withdrew from the contest this week after the organization learned of accusations against Ezel. The couple sent an email with this statement:
“We are sad to inform you that we are not going to accept the Operation Marry Me Military wedding package for Craven County. Due to some timing issues, planning and family schedules, we have scheduled our wedding for a later date. Thank you so very much for considering us for this amazing gift. We will be in communication with you soon.”
1st Lt. Peter Koernel of Camp Lejeune confirms SSgt. Patrick Ezel is accused of sexually assaulting a minor, providing alcohol and showing pornography to that minor and sodomy. The charges were brought against him last year for an incident that allegedly happened back in September. Koernel says Ezel is expected in court next month.
Bob Mackowski, the Craven County coordinator of Operation Marry Me Military, says the organization does do background checks and the couple's came back clean. However, Mackowski says they do not have access to military records.
Operation Marry Me Military is now looking for new winners for the Veteran's Day wedding at Tryon Palace's History Center. The wedding is worth an estimated $18,000. The organization has revised the application to include the following questions:
Have either of you ever been convicted of a felony?
Do either of you currently have pending criminal charges?
Are you currently in good standing with the military?
Are you currently in the process of ANY legal matters?
Applications need to be postmarked by September 5, 2013.