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Avatar of GI KoreaBy on March 4th, 2013 at 8:32 pm

General Comes Under Heat from Special Interests After Overturning Sexual Assault Verdict

The reaction to the dismissing of sexual assault charges against Lt. Col. James Wilkerson was all to predictable:

An Air Force general’s decision to overturn a jury’s guilty verdict and reinstate a fighter pilot convicted of sexual assault could prove to be a lightning rod in efforts to legislatively strip commanders of their long-held authority in sexual assault cases, victims’ advocates say.

Third Air Force commander Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin’s decision to reinstate Lt. Col. James Wilkerson was a stunning example of structural problems in an outdated military justice system rife with bias that discounts victims while emboldening offenders, advocates said.

“It’s really shocking,” Susan Burke, a lawyer who represents numerous military women in lawsuits against the Defense Department, said of the case.

“It’s inexcusable. It’s like the poster child for why we need reform. It proves to Congress why they have to act,” she said.

Greg Jacob, policy director of the Service Women’s Action Network and a former Marine infantry officer, was likewise taken aback.

“It’s atrocious. It’s infuriating,” he said. “It’s a perfect example of the due process system being overridden just at the whim of the commander. It’s a real travesty of justice.

“Now suddenly he’s not guilty? If there’s a sexual assault in this guy’s unit after he shows up, do you think anyone’s going to report it?”  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read the rest at the link, but of course Rep. Jackie Speier is doubling down on her idea to establish kangaroo courts outside of the standard UCMJ to convict servicemembers of sexual assaults.

Maybe there are legal reasons why LTG Franklin cannot fully disclose his reasoning, but in a case like this you would think he would have something published that fully explains his rationale.   Like I speculated before, maybe the convening authority overruled the jury because they were going by the old rules of conviction where people accused of sexual assault in the military are guilty until proven innocent which was found to be un-Constitutional?  This led to servicemembers convicted of rape before to have their cases overturned.  The convening authority maybe saw similarities with this case as the ones that were dismissed and thus dropped the conviction?

Maybe it was something else, but by not fulling explaining his decision to reverse the conviction it has just given ammunition to the usual special interests and their political allies to push their own agendas which they are predictably doing.

 

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  • JoeC
    12:25 am on March 5th, 2013 1

    If this does become a bigger political issue, it would be interesting to see if Senator Lindsey Graham is looked to as point man because of his particular expertise. He is, as far as I know, the only member of congress who was (still is?) a military judge advocate.

    Then, if it goes farther, to see if Graham and Hagel have gotten past their differences from Hagel’s selection hearing.

  • Leon LaPorte
    12:41 am on March 5th, 2013 2

    1. He’s a reservist, not sure if has retired. Even so, it seems to me he could only serve in such a capacity while active. I’m thinking there would be a conflict of interest of some sort for a sitting senator to get involved in this case.

  • Liz
    5:07 am on March 5th, 2013 3

    Well good on that commander for placing his career on the line for principle during witchhunting season. The REAL “travesty of justice” that happened here started with the court martial. With evidence this sketchy it should have never gone to trial in the first place. I don’t know what THAT commander was thinking. This was a purely politically motivated prosecution. I don’t know what the accuser was thinking either, she must have a deep seeded dislike for this guy that was personal, and had nothing to do with the ostensible “attack”. That would be an interesting story to hear.

    Per this quote: ““Here was a case where everything worked,” Jacob said. “And all of that work and all of that effort was negated by a single commander.”

    That person is an idiot. “Everything worked” for whom? When is it a good day that a person is successfully prosecuted with no evidence whatsoever? This is exactly the sort of case that undermines justice for REAL victims of sexual assault. Politically motivated, specious prosecutions on virtually nonexistent grounds.

  • Liz
    6:00 am on March 5th, 2013 4

    “Maybe there are legal reasons why LTG Franklin cannot fully disclose his reasoning, but in a case like this you would think he would have something published that fully explains his rationale.”

    Aviano can be a very small place and there is any number of reasons he cannot disclose his reasoning. The character and history of the accuser probably came into the equation (veracity and reliability of the accuser is perfectly relevant information to form a conclusion as to whether the case should go to trial, and since her testimony is the only evidence in existence it is extremely relevant).

    A rationale that the commander did disclose is insufficient evidence. That should be enough. After a commander initiates an investigation the case is to proceed to trial only if there is sufficient evidence to do so…beyond reasonable doubt. There are other types of disciplinary action outside of trial (such as a letter of reprimand, a career killer for an officer) for less than reasonable doubt. This should have never gone to trial in the first place.

  • Ole Tanker
    7:35 am on March 5th, 2013 5

    It clearly was a backroom deal.

    The jurors convicted to save their careers and be PC.

    The CG overturned it because, “It’s good to be King!”

  • Ole Tanker
    7:39 am on March 5th, 2013 6

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StJS51d1Fzg

  • jim
    6:18 pm on March 5th, 2013 7

    6, no fun if you let everyone in on the joke.

  • Ole Tanker
    7:17 pm on March 5th, 2013 8

    #7 LOL, I found the clip after I posted.

    On a more serious note. Of course the convening Commander found the verdict “Beyond a reasonable doubt!”

    Think about it.
    How could a commisioned officer, an Officer and a Gentleman, with a distinguished career commit a sexual assault?

    Think about this. Who would have believed General Petraous would have an affair with his biographer?

    That too, is beyond a reasonable doubt:)

  • someotherguy
    10:00 pm on March 5th, 2013 9

    I do believe I said something like this was going to happen. All the libs were “herp derp just execute him already”. And “It’s the good ole boys club again, he’ll never be questioned WAHHHH!!”.

    Officers eat their own and eat them quickly. The only time something ever gets hidden is if it implicates a GO somehow. This is an O4, their a dime a dozen and not worth the effort. So if he screwed up you can feel assured that he would be tossed to the wolves, they’d even tie him up first. So the very fact that the GCMA threw out the case (not f*cking overturned) means there was something wrong with it.

    Another thing that bugs me is the general level of complete ignorance about UCMJ and military justice expressed by so many people. Their treating the GCMA as a judge when his actual role is completely different. The SJA and thus the prosecution team works FOR the GCMA, he’s their boss, the guy who writes their OER’s and recommends promotions. Ultimately he’s the guy prosecuting the defendant. If he was going to pull something shady it would of happened before or during the trial, not after. The GCMA dismissing a trial has the equivalent of a civilian DA assigned to a case dropping the charges.

    So he was never “found guilty”, the charges were dropped. Anyone saying he was “found guilty” doesn’t know a damn thing about UCMJ. He was recommended guilty by 2/3rds of a jury. The defense filed paperwork to the GCMA for special consideration and he heard it, then decided to drop the charges which subsequently ended the whole affair.

  • Liz
    4:36 am on March 6th, 2013 10

    #8: Are you familiar with the facts on this case at all?

  • Liz
    4:42 am on March 6th, 2013 11

    #8: Since there is no edit button I will add (just woke up and need coffee).

    There’s actually some evidence that Petraeus had sex with his biographer. There is no evidence that a sexual assault took place in this instance. Even the ostensible victim admitted her memory on the event was suspect as she claims to have been sleeping when it took place and sort of recalls….And one’s home with the wife and kids present.

    Even assuming he had such a GILF fetish that knowledge of a drunken menopausal woman in his home drove him to jump in her bed and fondle with the kids and wife in the house there is no evidence this happened at all.

  • Avatar of GI KoreaGI Korea
    4:54 am on March 6th, 2013 12

    @9- Good comment. A lot of civilians do not understand that the military legal system is not the same as the civilian system. How many more people would be convicted of crimes if a jury in a civilian court only needed a majority vote?

    However for the special interests these differences do not matter and thus they are predictably going after LTG Franklin:

    http://www.stripes.com/news/senators-ask-hagel-to-review-overturning-of-sexual-assault-conviction-1.210544

    I have to assume he knew this was coming and I hope he is prepared to deal with all the demagougery on this issue that is about to take place.

  • Liz
    4:57 am on March 6th, 2013 13

    #12: No one stays in command forever. At least if he goes, he will die with his boots on.

  • Ole Tanker
    7:55 am on March 6th, 2013 14

    #9

    “(not f*cking overturned)”

    Someting in the title of this thread threw me off:)

    Liz! I am just pointing out that one person’s “reasonable doubt”, is another’s “smoking gun.”

    I’m going to watch 12 Angry Men again.

  • Liz
    8:35 am on March 6th, 2013 15

    #14: I need to watch 12 angry men!

    My husband sat on a courts martial board a while back for a rape case. He was that proberbial holdout ‘angry man’. DIdn’t matter, unanimous isn’t necessary for court martial “recommendation of guilty”. He was only an 0-2 at the time, and the others were far higher ranking than he, all supplicants to the one 0-6 who was the highest ranking guy on the board.

    That is when we first found out exactly how enormously politically motivated these types of trials are. The Colonel didn’t want the base paper to say they let a rapist off easy, far motivated more by how things would look for his career progression than justice…long story short, I am absolutely certain that the actual facts of the case would have never led to conviction for a person outside the military. That was many years ago, now such cases are even more subject to political pressure….look at this one, we have two Senators trying to involve themselves in the process. There’s high pressure to convict regardless of the facts on the matter.

  • Ole Tanker
    8:47 am on March 6th, 2013 16

    Here ya go.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RelOJfFIyp8

    In the end, even the President can pardon whomever he wants.

  • Liz
    8:50 am on March 6th, 2013 17

    Just to add, in case anyone asks about the facts of that particular case. Consent had been given. Furthermore, the defendant stopped at the instance of penetration when she, “didn’t seem very into it”. Her testimony backed that claim. Unfortunately he was only 18 and admitted to slight penetration before stopping when he was cross examined during the investigation. The court decided that although she offered consent it did not matter because she was inebriated, and any penetration whatsoever qualifies legally as rape.

    The Colonel wanted to prosecute to the full extent of the law….hoped to throw that kid in prison for 6 years. My husband was able to talk him down to 2 years. Still, the kid’s life was over. No history of any criminal conduct before but he’s probably a criminal now that was a serious injustice.

  • Liz
    8:50 am on March 6th, 2013 18

    Heh, thanks for the link! :-)

  • someotherguy
    11:02 pm on March 7th, 2013 19

    @17,

    I’ve seen that scenario before, it’s just the girl creating an excuse for what she feels was a poor decision. Also highlights what I keep telling people, that once alcohol is involved “you raped her” end of story. Seeing as nearly all hook-ups involved alcohol as social lubricant it creates the situation where nearly all consensual sex between service members could be considered rape. Biggest reason to not date other service members.

 

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