April 23, 2013
 Contact: Brian Purchia,


Protect Our Defenders releases letter calling on Sec. Def. Hagel to remove Air Force Commander following scandal; Point-by-point rebuttal of Lt. Gen. Franklin’s 18 reasons for overturning jury conviction of Lt. Col. Wilkerson’s for aggravated sexual assault released; Victim’s family and Protect Our Defenders to hold protest at base in Tucson, AZ  where Wilkerson reassigned

Washington DC – Today, Protect Our Defenders (POD) released a point-by-point rebuttal to Lt. General Franklin’s list of 18 reasons as to why he concluded that he was justified in overturning the conviction of Lt. Colonel Wilkerson’s for aggravated sexual assault. The rebuttal references relevant quotations from the court record, witness statements, related evidence and analytical commentary on the validity of Franklin’s attempted justification. On Monday, POD President Nancy Parrish also sent a letter with the rebuttal to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel calling for Franklin’s removal.Last month with a flick of his pen, Franklin set justice aside and overruled the jury’s verdict convicting Wilkerson of aggravated sexual assault of a civilian contractor at Aviano Air Base. Wilkerson was dismissed from the Air Force and sentenced to one year in jail. Franklin’s reversal freed his fellow fighter pilot and reinstated him back into the Air Force against the recommendations of his own legal counsel. At that time, Franklin also recommended Wilkerson for promotion.

The letter released today to Sec. Hagel from Protect Our Defenders President, Nancy Parrish calls for Franklin’s removal (*attached is in a full copy of POD’s rebuttal and the letter to Sec. Hagel). 

“In this attempt to justify his actions, Lt. Gen. Franklin repeatedly substituted his judgment for the judgment of the court members and the military judge. He offers nothing new. The only evidence Franklin viewed that the [court] members did not was found baseless by the military judge. Rather than look with suspicion on inconsistent or novel assertions made after the trial in clemency letters from defense witnesses, who previously testified at court, Franklin accepts their claims as gospel. He weighed the opinions of others as if it were fact, some of which had been disallowed in court. It is telling that these particular defense witnesses did not make these claims when under oath and subject to cross-examination. The bottom line is: what powers could Lt. General Franklin possess that would make him a better judge of the credibility of witnesses than the actual court members, who observed the testimony?

His pathetic excuses and sophomoric logic leave no doubt that he did nothing more than protect a fellow pilot. His naive belief that senior officers cannot commit crimes is Exhibit A regarding what is wrong with commanders being in charge of prosecuting sexual offenders. He has destroyed the facade that commanders can be trusted to do what is right in sexual assault cases.

Lt. General Franklin must be fired. Furthermore, commanders, who are not trained in legal process and are immersed in conflicting self-interests and biases, should not have authority over investigation, prosecution, judicial, or appellate proceedings.”

Last week, Protect Our Defenders launched a petition on calling on Sec. Hagel to stand up for victims of sexual assault and remove Franklin and Wilkerson from the Air Force. More than 3,000 people have already signed the petition.

The victim’s family, Protect Our Defenders, survivors of military sexual assault, and other advocates for victims of sexual assault will hold a protest on Thursday outside of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona (where the victim’s family lives) calling on Sec. Hagel to remove Wilkerson for conduct unbecoming an officer, unrelated to the Aviano case. They will also call for Sec. Hagel to remove Franklin for undermining good order and discipline by acting on his bias and beliefs rather than the facts and the judgment of senior officers who are members of the jury Franklin selected that found Wilkerson guilty.

Air Force chief of staff, Gen. Mark Welsh has said, “[sexual assault] has the potential to rip the fabric of your force apart. I think it is doing that to a certain extent now” and that “every supervisor who isn’t actively engaged in being part of the solution of this is part of the problem.”

When recently asked about his decision to overrule Wilkerson’s conviction, Franklin responded, “I’ll tell you I am sleeping like a baby…I made the right decision…I can sleep well at night because I know I made the right call.”

Now is the time for General Welsh and Sec. Hagel to do the right thing. Senior officers must be held accountable for failing to take rape and assault within the military seriously. Franklin is part of the problem and Sec. Hagel needs to remove him from the Air Force.  

Wilkerson has a long history of misconduct, as first reported by the New York Times.

Protect Our Defenders petition Calling on Sec. Hagel to Remove Lt. Gen. Franklin and Lt. Col. Wilkerson:

Air Force Times: Sex assault clemency surprised prosecutor

US News & World Report: How Justice Is Denied to Military Women

Dallas Morning News: Air Force officer, convicted of sexual assault, is assigned to victim’s hometown

Stars & Stripes: Re-instated Air Force pilot Wilkerson assigned to Davis-Monthan

Statement to Congress from Aviano Victim:

New York Times: Hagel to Open Review of Sexual Assault Case

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 or on Facebook at or follow us on Twitter at