Hagel still reviewing sexual assault case

Hagel ordered the pair of reviews after lawmakers and sexual assault victims’ advocates expressed outrage at a sexual assault case from Aviano Air Base in Italy where Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin tossed out the guilty verdict against Lt. Col. James Wilkerson.

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Wilkerson was facing a year in prison and dismissal from the Air Force, but Franklin’s ruling reinstated him in the Air Force.

The case prompted several lawmakers to propose legislation that would remove the ability for commanders to dismiss verdicts in post-case reviews. They highlighted it as another example of the military not taking the issue of sexual assault seriously enough.

The Uniform Code of Military Justice has long given the power of a convening authority to review cases and dismiss guilty verdicts.

Little said that Hagel has been briefed on recommendations from the Pentagon’s general counsel for the review of the military justice rules, but is still considering them.

The Air Force has completed its review of the Aviano case, Little said, but Hagel has not yet made any final decisions.