Protect Our Defenders News Blog


Air Force Secretary Defends Aviano AFB General

By POLITICO Pro staff
4/23/13 10:35 AM EDT

Air Force Secretary Michael Donley on Tuesday defended a general involved with a sexual assault case that has outraged victims’ advocates and members of Congress, saying he has a track record of acting correctly and within the bounds of the law.

Donley told reporters in a breakfast meeting that Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin, commander of the Third Air Force, uses his power as “convening authority” in courts-martial based on the merits of each case. Although Franklin has altered the results in two of the five sexual assault cases he’s dealt with, he has let convictions stand in three of them, Donley said.

One of the two in which Franklin intervened sparked a backlash in Washington: Franklin voided the conviction of an inspector general who was found guilty of sexual assault, which lawmakers and victims’ advocates said showed an old boys’ club taking care of its own. One group, Protect Our Defenders, went as far as to call for Franklin to be fired on Tuesday morning.

Donley pointed out that Franklin later explained his decision in writing, which he was not obligated to do, and that Donley and the rest of the military services have recommended that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ask Congress to change the Uniform Code of Military Justice and weaken commanders’ power to alter the results of courts-martial.

“There’s now a robust appellate process in place that we didn’t have when the UCMJ was drafted,” Donley said.

Donley said Franklin has other cases pending under his role as the “convening authority” and that Donley is confident Franklin would continue “to address them individually.”

Donley also said he disagreed with proposals to stand up independent boards or agencies inside the military services that would handle sexual assault cases, as opposed to prosecuting them inside a unit’s normal chain of command.“I think the chain of command is the appropriate place,” he said.

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