McCaskill Demands Action in Dismissed Sexual Assault Conviction
In Armed Services hearing, and letter to Air Force Secretary and Chief of Staff, Senator slams decision in which servicemember went from brig to promotion eligibility
March 5, 2013
WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill today used a Senate hearing to call into question the authority of commanders to dismiss charges against convicted offenders, and specifically targeted the actions of an Air Force general who overturned the trial of an officer convicted of sexual assault-allowing the officer to be released and put in line for promotion, with a clean record, only months after entering jail. In a subsequent letter to the two highest officials in the Air Force, McCaskill called for the actions of the General to be reviewed and for disciplinary measures to be considered.
"The military needs to understand that this could be a tipping point," said McCaskill, a former Jackson County Prosecutor and a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "I question whether, after this incident, there's any chance a woman assaulted in that unit would ever say a word. There's a culture issue that's going to have to be addressed here. And what this decision did-all it did was underline and put an exclamation point behind the notion that if you are sexually assaulted in the military-good luck."
Air Force Lt. Col. James Wilkerson was convicted of sexual assault, and sentenced to a year in prison following a military trial. 3rd Air Force commander Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin, reportedly against the advice of legal counsel, subsequently used his command authority to dismiss the charges against Wilkerson, which led Wilkerson to be released, and his record expunged of any wrongdoing. This set the stage for Wilkerson's immediate reinstatement and eligibility for promotion.
At the hearing, McCaskill questioned whether military commanders should have the authority to overturn the verdict of a military jury, and indicated she is strongly considering legislation to strip the authority. McCaskill noted that commanders generally have no legal training.
McCaskill today also wrote to the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force calling for a review, and possible ouster, of General Franklin for his actions dismissing the case that arose out of an incident at Aviano Air Base, in Italy.
"(General Franklin) must be held to account, including consideration of promptly relieving him of his leadership position upon a review of his conduct, which I urge you to undertake immediately," McCaskill wrote.
McCaskill has been a leader on sexual assault prevention in the military-recently backing legislation aimed at improving the Department of Veterans Affairs' process for evaluating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) disability claims by military veterans. She has previously taken action to respond to reports of sexual assault occurring at Fort Leonard Wood that were detailed in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch investigation.
McCaskill also included provisions in the 2012 and 2013 National Defense Authorization Acts designed to improve the military's response to sexual assault and encourage the services to adopt training for sexual assault investigators developed at the Army's Military Police School at Fort Leonard Wood.
Read a copy of McCaskill's letter on her website, HERE.
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