Military Sexual Assault: Group Demands General's Ouster

By Dara Sharif

He’s gotta go.

That’s the call from an advocacy group for military rape survivors regarding an Air Force General who threw out a Colonel’s sexual-assault conviction earlier this year.

In an open letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Nancy Parrish, President of Protect Our Defenders, demanded Lieutenant General Craig Franklin‘s ouster.

Franklin, Commander of the Third Air Force, “destroyed the facade that commanders can be trusted to do what is right,” Parrish wrote.

Franklin overturned the conviction by court martial of Lieutenant Colonel James Wilkerson, an F-16 pilot and former Inspector General at Aviano Air Base in Italy. Wilkerson had been found guilty of sexually touching a guest at his home last year while she slept.

Wilkerson has continued to deny the charge. In an interview with the Air Force Times, Franklin defended his actions, saying that he found Wilkerson more credible than the accuser.

During a meeting with reporters last week, Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley also defended Franklin, Politico reported. Of five sexual assault cases he has handled, Franklin has upheld three of them, Donley said. He added that Franklin has always acted correctly within the law.

But Parrish argued that Franklin’s actions prove “that commanders, who are not trained in legal process and are immersed in conflicting self-interest and biases, should not have authority over investigation, prosecution, judicial or appellate proceedings.”

The demand for Franklin’s ouster comes on the heels of the Defense Department’s putting in place new regulations to strengthen support for military sexual-assault survivors. But commanders still have the ability to overturn convictions, prompting further outrage from advocates like Protect Our Defenders who want to change that policy as well.

Legislation has been introduced in Congress to create independent offices to handle sexual-assault cases in the military. Donley is against such a move.

When Do Leaders Have to Go

As the recent scandal at Rutgers has demonstrated, leaders who make bad judgments can and should lose their jobs.

Sometimes CEOs withstand the criticism but become less effective leaders.

Others learn from their errors and become even better leaders.

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