A new defense secretary has just been confirmed and already he has a big issue to address: sexual assault in the military. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) (Full disclosure: I used to work in her office), and Senator Janeane Shaheen (D-NH) recently sent a letter requesting Chuck Hagel immediately review a decision by an Air Force Lieutenant General to dismiss all charges against an officer who had been convicted of sexual assault.
Lieutenant Colonel James Wilkerson, a fighter pilot, had been charged with aggravated sexual assault on former colleague Kimberly Hanks at Aviano Air Base in Italy. Hanks had been socializing with Wilkerson and his wife at their home and stayed the evening in their guest bedroom; in the middle of the night, she woke up to find Wilkerson on top of her. He was found guilty and sentenced to a year in the brig (AKA military prison). But he never served any time in prison because his superior, Lieutenant General Craig A. Franklin, dismissed the jury’s conviction and reinstated him. Senators Boxer and Shaheen and others are rightfully concerned that a troop charged with sexual assault was let off scot-free.
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