General who overturned rape conviction resigns

The Air Force general whose decision to overturn a subordinate's rape conviction last year will resign, following the disclosure last month that he declined to prosecute another alleged sexual assault.

Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin's decision to vacate the rape conviction of Lt. Col. James Wilkerson helped spur Congress to reform the military justice system. Franklin's rationale: Wilkerson was a good husband and father. He's stepping down, he said in a statement, to spare the Air Force the "distraction" he had created.

"The last thing I want in this command is for people to feel they cannot bring a sexual assault case forward or feel it won't be dealt with fairly," Franklin said. "In addition, public scrutiny will likely occur on every subsequent case I deal with. I am concerned this could jeopardize the privacy of both the victim and the accused."

Stars and Stripes reported last month that the Air Force had taken a sexual assault case out of Franklin's hands.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, the Missouri Democrat who pushed for a series of reforms in the way the military handles sexual assault cases, said Franklin needed to go. McCaskill has fought to maintain commanders' authority to prosecute the cases with greater oversight. A competing proposal from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D.-N.Y., would have the cases pursued by special prosecutors.

"Lt. Gen. Franklin's decision to resign is the right one," McCaskill said in a statement. "His handling of sexual assault cases is the best possible illustration of why civilian review, elimination of commanders' ability to overturn convictions, and so many other protections are included in our recent defense bill."

Franklin has been commander of the Third Air Force and 17th Expeditionary Air Force based in Germany. His final day in uniform is scheduled to be Jan. 31

Air Force chief of staff, Gen. Mark Welsh, thanked Franklin for his service.

"I fully respect his decision and the difficult circumstances under which he made it," Welsh said in a statement. "Craig has admirably served this country for more than 32 years in many key positions and at all levels of command."


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