HIV-Positive Ex-Navy Chaplain to Plead Guilty to Sodomy, Assault Charges

A Navy chaplain once assigned to the U.S. Naval Academy plans to plead guilty Thursday to sodomy and other charges, including one tied to his failure to disclose his HIV-positive status to a partner, his attorney said.

Lt. Cmdr. John Thomas Matthew Lee was to enter the plea at his general court-martial at Marine Corps Base Quantico in northern Virginia, his attorney, David Sheldon, told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Lee, 42, plans to plead guilty to forcible sodomy, aggravated assault and other charges, Sheldon said. Military law defines failing to inform a partner of a person's HIV status as aggravated assault, he said.

"Chaplain Lee is going to plead guilty pursuant to a pretrial agreement with the government that will substantially reduce his exposure to confinement," Sheldon said. "He's extremely apologetic and remorseful, both as a chaplain and as a naval officer."

Sheldon declined to discuss details of the pretrial agreement.

Lee could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

In addition to sodomy and aggravated assault, Lee faces charges that include conduct unbecoming a military officer and indecent assault and fraternization, according to a Marine Corps statement.

Lee was ordained as a priest in 1993 and began serving as a military chaplain in 1996, said Julia Rota, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of the Military Services, which oversees Catholic priests in the military. His faculties to function as a priest were revoked June 22, after an alleged victim came forward, Rota said.

Lee was commissioned as an officer in 1988, according to Navy records obtained by The Washington Post and the Navy Times. He served at the Naval Academy from September 2003 until November 2006, when he was reassigned to Quantico. He was relieved of his duties in June.

His previous assignments include Camp Pendleton in California, Pearl Harbor and Italy.