The commanding officer of the 3rd Air Force, Lt. Gen. Craig A. Franklin, is under assault by a hodgepodge of liberal advocacy groups after making a difficult decision to overturn a rape conviction.
It has been reported with some controversy that a patrol under Lt. Gen. Franklin’s 3rd Air Force, EUCOM CIF, was on standby to respond to the attack on the Benghazi consulate if the Obama administration had dispatched them. Now the commander is under intense fire from many liberal law makers and activist groups.
Franklin dismissed charges against Lt. Col. James Wilkerson after Wilkerson was convicted of aggravated sexual assault of a civilian contractor in a military tribunal. Franklin justified the pardon based on the shaky and inconsistent testimony of the accuser, Kimberly Hanks. Lt. Col Wilkinson was then reinstated and now serves at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.
Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, first established by the Second Continental Congress in 1775 and updated under President Harry Truman in 1951, commanding officers are granted the right to pardon those convicted at court martial hearings. Both Franklin’s decision and the UCMJ have come under attack and Franklin has been accused of being a “good ole’ boy” pardoning a friend and fellow officer for personal reasons.
Outraged left-wing individuals and groups are targeting Franklin and the UCMJ, including Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-M.O.), MSNBC host Lawrence McDonnell, the Daily Kos, and Protect Our Defenders. Gillibrand called on Secretary of Defense Charles T. “Chuck” Hagel to launch a further investigation into the matter.
In a letter to Hagel, Protect Our Defenders President Nancy Parrish wrote: “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 members did not was found baseless by the military judge.”
After undertaking an investigation, Hagel stated that there was nothing he could do to overturn the pardon, but that he would seek a change to the military code.
The information released after the trial was testimony by Brig. Gen. Pamela Milligan, who is married to the ex-husband of the accuser.
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, “Brig Gen. Milligan accused the woman of lying and making false and misleading accusations against her and her husband during a child-custody dispute.”
Also, one of the witnesses complained that the prosecutor Don Christensen had gone too far in his questioning, and was only “out for a conviction” instead of the truth.
That same witness said, “Combine this with the fact that he influenced the judge to exclude testimony of the accuser’s previous perjury under oath, I am now sure that once this went to trial, he was out only for a conviction with no regard to true justice or his own behavior as an officer.”
In a memo written to Secretary of the Air Force, Michael Donley, Franklin wrote, “Accusations by some that my decision was the result of either an apparent lack of understanding of sexual assault on my part or that because I do not take the crime of sexual assault seriously are complete and utter nonsense.”
Franklin explained how the testimony of the accuser had been inconsistent and that the evidence provided had not proved beyond reasonable doubt that Wilkerson was guilty. Franklin said that simply giving the stamp of approval would have been the easy decision, but he instead chose to do what he thought was right and pardoned Wilkerson, putting his own career in severe jeopardy and essentially assuring that he would never receive another promotion.
Franklin wrote, “It would have been exceedingly less volatile for the Air Force and for me professionally, to have simply approved the finding of guilty. This would have been an act of cowardice on my part and a breach of my integrity.”
Though Franklin continues in his role as commander of the 3rd Air Force, the political firestorm that he caused by doing what he considered to be the right thing will allow his politically motivated opponents to continue to drag his name through the mud. And Democratic lawmakers will undoubtedly continue to pressure the military to end rules that date back to the founding of the United States in order to accomplish their agenda.
Wilkerson’s defense lawyer Frank Spinner said, “I am at a loss to understand what the senators are upset about, other than they believe any woman who claims she was sexually assaulted must be accepted as telling the truth.”