A suspended Fort Jackson, South Carolina, drill sergeant was found guilty of misdemeanor assault and battery Monday following a two-day bench trial, according to local media reports.
Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Pentland shoved and pursued a Black man through his Columbia, South Carolina, neighborhood in a viral video this April.
Pentland must either serve 30 days in jail or pay a $1,087, according to the Post and Courier. The sentence was imposed by local magistrate judge Diedra Wilson Hightower.
In the viral video, Pentland can be heard saying, “You either walk away or I’m going to carry your ass out of here.”
He continued to follow the Black man — later identified as Deandre Williams — down the sidewalk, adding, “Let’s go, walk away. I’m about to do something to you. You better start walking right now… you’re in the wrong neighborhood motherfucker. Get out.”
The former commanding general of Fort Jackson, now-Maj. Gen. Milford Beagle, opted not to pursue UCMJ action or administrative action beyond suspending Pentland, instead deferring to the civilian justice 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 an April statement. “I do not want to take any actions now that could interfere with the fair resolution of civilian criminal charges.”
Online commenters argued that Pentland’s remarks and actions were racist — a characterization that he denied during the trial.
“I want to reiterate that the command in no way condones the behaviors and actions depicted,” Beagle said in April regarding the allegations of racial animus. “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.”
Pentland and his attorney argued that Williams, the victim, was posing a threat to the neighborhood.
“I stand by what I did,” said the suspended drill sergeant from the witness stand, according to the Post & Courier.
One of Pentland’s neighbors testified that Williams was acting erratically towards women in the neighborhood, leading her to pound on his door and ask for help, according to the Post and Courier.
But The State reported tearful testimony from Williams’ father revealing that the victim, who is shorter and weighs around a hundred pounds less than Pentland, had suffered brain damage during a bout with lymphoma — a type of cancer.
“He doesn’t quite understand things as we would,” said his father, according to the Post and Courier.
Police officials testified saying that regardless of the reason, Pentland came outside to confront Williams and was caught on camera assaulting him, both local newspapers reported.
A person who was in the courtroom throughout the trial spoke with Army Times on background, saying Pentland’s demeanor throughout the trial was “stoic.”
It was not immediately clear whether Pentland plans to appeal his conviction or sentence, and his attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent through his legal assistant.
Pentland ultimately apologized for the impact of his actions, according to the Post and Courier.
“It’s embarrassing to the community, I’m sorry for the way it escalated, anybody looking back at this, you can watch that video and 100 percent see that it looks worse than it is,” Pentland said. “I did what I felt I had to do to protect my friends and family.”
It was not clear whether Army officials will immediately pursue additional action against Pentland.
When reached by Army Times via phone, Fort Jackson spokesperson L.A. Sully indicated that officials will wait for Pentland to exhaust all of his civilian appeals — if he appeals — before considering any administrative or UCMJ action.
“Fort Jackson Commander Brig. Gen. Patrick R. Michaelis is reviewing his options in the matter of Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Pentland,” Sully said. “We will provide more information when a decision about how to proceed is made.”
The drill sergeant remains suspended from his duty position.
Military Times senior editor Sarah Sicard contributed reporting to this article.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated with an additional statement from Army officials.
Davis Winkie is a senior reporter covering the Army, specializing in accountability reporting, personnel issues and military justice. He joined Military Times in 2020. Davis studied history at Vanderbilt University and UNC-Chapel Hill, writing a master's thesis about how the Cold War-era Defense Department influenced Hollywood's WWII movies.