Air Force Discharges Priest Female Former Cadet Had Alleged an Improper Sexual Relationship

By Erin Emery
Denver Post
August 12, 2000

Air Force Academy - A Catholic priest who was investigated for allegedly having an improper sexual relationship with a cadet 16 years ago and resuming it last summer has been discharged from the Air Force, according to Sgt. Tony Hill, a spokesman for the Academy.

The Rev. Pat Nicholson, 54, a lieutenant colonel, was 'separated' from the Air Force on July 18, Hill said. The academy would not reveal what type of discharge the priest received, saying that information is protected under the Privacy Act.

Susan Archibald, the former cadet who launched the investigation by turning over love letters on Nov. 8, said Friday that she had learned through unofficial sources that Nicholson received a general discharge. She did not know what punitive measures - if any - were involved.

'This whole thing is disappointing,' Archibald said from her home in Utah. 'They (the academy) won't even tell me what he was discharged with. They won't tell me what the terms of his punishment were.

'I think this victimizes the woman almost as much as the original offense: 'Well, this happened, but we don't want anyone to know about it."

Archibald told the academy nine months ago 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 that 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.

Rick Cusick, the attorney for Archibald, said a 'general discharge is something less than honorable.' He said academy officials would not reveal the type of discharge Nicholson received, but he thinks that Archibald should have been notified of the details. It was unknown whether Nicholson is still a priest. The Archdiocese of Baltimore, which oversees military chaplains, could not be reached for comment late Friday.

Cusick said there is nothing in the law that requires that Archibald be notified.

'ButI believe she should have been told,' Cusick said.

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 was abusive behavior. She said she believes Nicholson accepted an Article 15, an administrative punishment that covers a broad range of violations. She said she believes that an Article 15 hearing was held in late April or early May.

Archibald, 35, is still a reservist in the Air Force and works as a recruiter for the academy.

'Right now, I'm kind of thinking about what to do.

'It's very hard for me to continue as a recruiter at the academy. How can I recommend that a young woman come into the Air Force? I've repeatedly been asked if I've ever been abused or harassed as a woman in the Air Force, and I feel I have to tell the truth.

'It's hard for me right now to go through that job with any kind of conscience and deliver a happy message about the Air Force.'


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