You may recall several months ago the news that an F-16 pilot’s court-martial conviction on charges of sexual assault in Italy were tossed out by his commander, an Air Force three-star general. The unilateral reversal – a rarely-used, but jealously-guarded, prerogative of command that appears (largely due to this case) in a fatal dive – was the opening volley in the current rash of military sexual assaults.
On Feb. 26, Air Force Lieut. General Craig Franklin threw out Lieut. Colonel James Wilkerson’s conviction. As the so-called “convening authority” in the case, he decided that the case should go to court martial, he chose the jury – and he had the power to overrule the jury’s finding. Franklin “concluded that the entire body of evidence was insufficient to meet the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” the Air Force said at the time. Wilkerson was promptly freed from the U.S. Consolidated Naval Brig in Charleston, S.C.
The case generated a fair amount of publicity, including a claim that Wilkerson had fathered a child out of wedlock.
The Air Force investigated that claim, and has released its findings. Bottom line:
The CDI [Command-Directed Investigation] found sufficient evidence to substantiate the allegations that Lt. Col. Wilkerson fathered a child with a woman other than his wife more than eight years ago.
Battleland’s bottom line: given this new background, the fact that General Franklin found Colonel Wilkerson such a sterling example of probity and integrity that he jettisoned his court-martial conviction, says more about the general than the colonel. It also doesn’t speak well for the service that steadily promoted Wilkerson up the chain of command that vainly tried to protect him.
Wonder what that child thinks of the Air Force?