Air Force Academy No Proof Priest 'Tipped Off' Alleged Sex with Cadet Probed

By Erin Emery
Denver Post
June 14, 2000

The Inspector General of the Air Force has found no evidence that a Catholic priest stationed at the Air Force Academy was 'tipped off' to an investigation into whether he had an improper sexual relationship with a freshman cadet 16 years ago and again last summer.

Robert Cusick, the attorney for Air Force Maj. Susan Archibald, had asked the IG's office in early May to investigate whether the Rev. Pat Nicholson, a lieutenant colonel, 'was prematurely advised of the investigation, allowing him time to destroy incriminating documentary evidence and to contact likely witnesses.'

Archibald, 35, an Air Force reservist, told the academy on Nov. 8 that she and Nicholson had a sexual relationship while he was a 38-year-old captain and she was an 18-year-old cadet. She told the academy the relationship resumed last summer and that at least one other woman who served in the active-duty Air Force had been sexually involved with Nicholson.

Archibald provided photos and love letters. Two days later the academy began a formal investigation - the same day Archibald got a call from Nicholson. She had not heard from him for weeks prior to the Nov. 10 phone call.

'They couldn't find proof,' Cusick said Tuesday from his office in Louisville, Ky. 'They didn't find any evidence that they didn't (tip off Nicholson) either. I think it's beyond coincidence that he would call her on the phone the same day the academy launched the investigation.'

Archibald is in training this week at the academy and said she was disappointed by the inspector general's findings but not surprised.

'I guess I wasn't really upbeat that they would find evidence,' she said.

According to Neil Talbott, a spokesman for the academy, Nicholson, 54, is still stationed at the academy but no longer performs chaplain duties. The academy's Web site says the Rev. David Reeson, a lieutenant colonel, is handling Catholic services at the academy.

Capt. Paul Hurcomb, Nicholson's attorney, did not return phone calls.

Archibald went public with her story in April because she said she wanted the truth to come out and that she wanted Nicholson to stop what she believes is abusive behavior. Archibald said she believes Nicholson has accepted an Article 15, an administrative punishment that covers a broad range of violations, and is in the process of being discharged from the military. The academy will not comment on any Article 15, citing the Privacy Act.


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