FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 10, 2013 Contact: Brian Purchia, , email@example.com
*** STATEMENT ***
PROTECT OUR DEFENDERS CALLS FOR LT. GEN. CRAIG FRANKLIN TO BE DISMISSED FROM US MILITARY
Washington DC – Earlier this month, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered the DOD General Counsel and the Secretary of the Air Force to review the action taken by Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin to overturn the sexual assault conviction of Lt. Col. James Wilkerson at Aviano Air Base. Lt. General Franklin threw out the sexual assault conviction of Lt. Col. Wilkerson, who had been sentenced to a year in prison and dismissed from the armed forces by a jury of officers, without explanation and against the recommendation of his legal counsel. The review has not been fully released, but today the Pentagon did release an after the fact explanation from Lt. General Franklin for his actions.
The military estimates that there are 19,000 military rapes and sexual assaults a year, but only 3,200 victims reported the attacks and out of those fewer than 191 cases resulted in court martial conviction. According to DoD’s own data, 47% of service members are too afraid to report their assaults, because of what happens to those who do. Protect Our Defenders has called on Lt. Gen. Franklin to be dismissed from the military for his actions.
NOTE: Protect Our Defenders is in the process of preparing a point by point response to Lt. General Franklin’s explanation of why he took the extraordinary action to overturn the military court’s finding that Lt. Col. Wilkerson was guilty of sexual assault.
Protect Our Defenders President Nancy Parrish released the following statement today calling for Lt. Gen. Franklin to be dismissed from the Air Force.
“In the fullness of time once all the information is out there and if anyone makes the effort and goes through the process to fully understand it will be recognized that Lt. Gen. Franklin made a deeply flawed and inappropriate decision.
Lt. Gen. Franklin’s explanation leaked today, revealed his true bias in this case with broad-brush dismissal of numerous inconsistent statements told by both Mrs. and Lt. Col. Wilkerson that the jury concluded were lies. Rather than rely on the credibility determinations of the senior members of the jury he selected, Franklin chose to accept the word of Wilkerson’s supporters. This is especially troubling in that many of those submitting post trial clemency letters had been witnesses at the trial. Their testimony had already been evaluated by the court members and put into proper context. Additionally, several of the clemency letters he relied on were from mutual friends of Franklin and Wilkerson. Once again this raises the very real concern of whether a victim can ever receive justice under the current system.
Franklin’s decision to place great weight on the allegations of the wife of the victim’s ex-husband is particularly telling of the lengths he was willing to go to free a fellow pilot. The military judge had previously determined the testimony was without a basis and inadmissible. Yet, Franklin decided to use the testimony involving a ten-year-old child custody dispute to find reasonable doubt. Yet, he utterly dismissed the fact Wilkerson failed miserably a polygraph for the very offenses of which he was found guilty. In what world would someone put greater weight on a victim’s ex-husband’s wife’s 10-year-old opinion than the findings of a polygraph, not to mention those of a very senior jury panel and highly qualified judge.
Lt. Gen. Franklin’s action is having a chilling effect on victims of sexual assault in our military that are thinking about coming forward and has cut the legs out from under military prosecutors thinking about bringing sexual assault cases to trial.
The military should set an example by removing Lt. Gen. Franklin and make it clear that those who enable criminals to attack are not welcome to serve our country. Now is the time for Defense Secretary Hagel to do the right thing. Senior officers must be held accountable for failing to take rape and sexual assault within the military seriously. Everything, else the military leadership is doing is meaningless, if Lt. Gen. Franklin is allowed to remain in the Air Force.
The Aviano case is yet another unequivocal example of why the authority to investigate, prosecute, and adjudicate must be taken outside the chain of command.”
Stars & Stripes: Re-instated Air Force pilot Wilkerson assigned to Davis-Monthan
Statement to Congress from Aviano Victim:
Stars & Stripes: Hagel orders review of UCMJ after Wilkerson sex assault case
New York Times: Hagel to Open Review of Sexual Assault Case
Wired Magazine: Air Force’s Accountability for Sexual Assault: Not Promoting Convicted Officer
NBC News: Civil Rights Commission urged to order audit of military sex-assault cases
About Protect Our Defenders: Protect Our Defenders is a human rights organization. We seek to honor, support and give voice to the brave women and men in uniform who have been sexually assaulted while serving their country, and re-victimized by the military adjudication system – a system that often blames the victim and fails to prosecute the perpetrator. Learn more about Protect Our Defenders at www.protectourdefenders.com or on Facebook at http://facebook.com/
Protect Our Defenders partners with Attorney Susan Burke, Burke PLLC to advance lawsuits filed against the DoD and service academies for repeatedly ignoring rape, sexual assault and harassment, failing to prosecute perpetrators and retaliating against the victim.