A white Fort Jackson soldier charged in connection with an April 12 altercation with a Black man will be prosecuted by the civilian justice system before the military justice system gets involved, the South Carolina post’s commanding general said Friday.
Sgt. First Class Jonathan Pentland, the Army non-commissioned officer shown confronting a Black man walking in his Columbia, South Carolina, neighborhood in a viral video, was charged with third-degree assault and has been suspended from all instructor duties. The charge is a misdemeanor, and Pentland faces a fine of not more than $500, 30 days imprisonment, or both.
Though the Richland County Sheriff’s Department transferred Pentland to Fort Jackson authorities on April 14, Fort Jackson Commanding General Brig. Gen. Milford “Beags” Beagle Jr. has officially turned over all proceedings to the civilian system.
“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,” Beagle said in a statement. “I do not want to take any actions now that could interfere with the fair resolution of civilian criminal charges.”
Beagle said while his command does not condone the actions depicted in the video, due process must be carried out.
“I want to reiterate that the command in no way condones the behaviors and actions depicted,” he said. “Those behaviors are absolutely counter to the Army Values and professionalism expected of soldiers, both on and off duty. 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.”
Beagle also reiterated the need to re-establish community trust in the wake of the incident. He and Fort Jackson officials will continue to work with Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott, Columbia Mayor Steven Benjamin, and State Sen. Mia McLeod to address issues as they arise.
“We acknowledged that there is a desire for a community-level engagement as we work jointly to find the appropriate path to community healing,” according to Beagle’s statement. “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 them to reestablish the mutual trust and kinship engendered by years of determined cooperation.”
Efforts to reach Pentland were unsuccessful at the time of this writing. Court and jail records at this time do not list an attorney. The Richland County Sherrif’s office declined to share a message.