An advocacy group for sexual assault victims in the military is pushing for an Air Force general to be fired after he dismissed a verdict against an officer, a decision that has also angered some members of Congress.
According to Politico
, the group Protect Our Defenders sent a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel Tuesday calling on him to fire Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin, commander of the 3rd Air Force, because of his decision to dismiss a sexual assault verdict decided by court-martial against Lt. Col. James Wilkerson.
The letter, written by Defenders President Nancy Parrish, said the decision “clearly conflicts with his responsibility to further good order and discipline within the service.”
Franklin defended himself against the charges of misconduct in a 6-page letter sent to Air Force Secretary Michael Donley, Politico reported.
“Accusations by some that my decision was the result of either an apparent lack of understanding of sexual assault on my part, or that I do not take the crime of sexual assault seriously are complete and utter nonsense,” Franklin wrote. “I unequivocally view sexual assault as a highly egregious crime. I take every allegation of sexual assault very seriously.”
Franklin argued that he dismissed Wilkerson’s conviction because he didn’t find the alleged victim very credible, while the character witnesses who spoke up on behalf of Wilkerson “painted a very consistent picture of a person who adored his wife and 9-year-old son, as well as a long-serving professional Air Force officer.”
Donley has also defended Franklin’s decision saying that he does not have a history of abusing his “convening authority” when reviewing such cases, and has only dismissed 2 of 5 sexual assault verdicts under his jurisdiction.
Parrish has responded to Franklin’s defense in a 22 page document.
According to her, Franklin’s letter “provides clear documentation that commanders, who are not trained in legal process and are immersed in conflicting self-interest and biases, should not have authority over investigation, prosecution, judicial or appellate proceedings.”
On Capitol Hill, meanwhile, Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier of California, who has been involved in recent hearings on sexual assault in the military, has reintroduced legislation that would remove the authority over such cases from the military chain of command and place it in an military oversight council and office to handle sexual assault complaints. Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York is also working on a similar bill in the Senate.
Defense Secretary Hagel has also raised concerns about sexual assault cases in the military. He has proposed that Congress change the authority that commanders have over court martial verdicts under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
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