Sign the Petition to

President Barack Obama, Commander-In-Chief of the United States Armed Forces & Chuck Hagel, United States Secretary of Defense

Earlier this year, with a flick of his pen, Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin set justice aside and overruled a jury’s verdict convicting Lt. Col. James Wilkerson of aggravated sexual assault of a civilian contractor at Aviano Air Base. As his punishment, Wilkerson was dismissed from the Air Force and sentenced to one year in jail. Franklin's reversal freed his fellow fighter pilot and reinstated him back into the Air Force, in part because he was described by friends and family as  a “doting father and husband.” 
To General Franklin, it didn’t matter that Wilkerson had failed a lie-detector test or that his own legal counsel recommended against overruling the verdict. Instead, Franklin claimed that Wilkerson’s conviction and punishment should be overturned because he was a “doting father and husband.” Franklin failed to mention that Wilkerson had a long history of misconduct.  He had already been caught peeking over a bathroom stall while a subordinate's wife urinated. Wilkerson egregiously violated safety standards, pulled rank to fend off law enforcement officials, was abusive to fellow military officials -- and that’s just what we know so far.

Despite strong corroborating testimony from independent witnesses and clear supporting facts on the record, Franklin, who did not attend the trial, decided that he did not believe the victim. Heard that before? Unless Franklin is dismissed from the service for his biased and unfounded reversal of Wilkerson’s conviction, Franklin’s actions will have a chilling effect on victims who might otherwise report being sexually assaulted. It sends exactly the wrong message to bystanders, investigators, prosecutors, judges, and juries who otherwise might try to do the right thing. It confirms to sexual predators that they face little risk of being punished.

The attack at Aviano is just one of almost twenty thousand similar incidents occurring every year throughout the military. Eighty-five percent of victims do not report the crime, mainly out of fear of retaliation, and not being believed. Most disturbing of all, out of the 3,200 cases reported in 2010, less than 190 reports of sexual assault in the military actually ended in a conviction. Wilkerson’s conviction was one of those rare instances where justice was served -- or so it seemed.

President Obama and Secretary Hagel, you must remove Lt. Gen. Franklin and Lt. Col. Wilkerson for failing our country, and for failing our young service members and civilians who work on our bases around the world. You cannot allow this subversion of justice to stand. 

Signed,

Protect Our Defenders

This petition closed about 1 year ago

How this will help

Please join us: Tell President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to protect our service members from rape and sexual assault! Remove Lt. Gen. Franklin and Lt. Col. Wilkerson from...
Please join us: Tell President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to protect our service members from rape and sexual assault! Remove Lt. Gen. Franklin and Lt. Col. Wilkerson from the United States Air Force. The only way to end the epidemic of sexual assault in the military is to hold leaders, like Franklin, who cover up and condone these crimes and those who commit the crimes, like Wilkerson, accountable. Our service members deserve better. Our country deserves better.

The crisis of rape and sexual abuse in the military threatens good order and discipline within the ranks of the armed services. It threatens the safety and livelihood of our men and women in uniform, and their families. And it threatens the national security of the United States.

Franklin's subsequent explanation showed no valid basis to overturn the conviction, decided by a jury comprised of senior military officers, that he selected.  What mattered to Franklin was that Wilkerson like himself was a senior officer and fighter pilot. They served together in Iraq and had many mutual friends. What mattered was the "good ol' boys" network.

Leaders who fail to prosecute and punish the sexual predators in our military services must face consequences, or the culture that fosters this epidemic will never end.  Survivors of military sexual assault are calling on President Obama and Defense Sec. Hagel to discharge Lt. Gen. Franklin and Lt. Col. Wilkerson. Please help Protect Our Defenders and sign their petition!

Members of Congress, from both parties, have condemned Franklin's egregious action.  "Franklin clearly substituted his own independent judgment for that of the convened fact-finding panel," said Rep. Michael Turner, R-Ohio, a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

"This [Franklin's explanation] letter, is filled with selective reasoning and assumptions from someone with no legal training, and it's appalling that the reasoning spelled out in the letter served as the basis to overturn a jury verdict in this case," said Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) – Wall Street Journal.  The Senator went on to say, according to the Washington Post, parts of Franklin's letter explaining his actions, "just set my teeth on edge." 

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