Here’s a video of a report on the Today Show including an interview with Kimberly Hanks, the complaining witness in the Lt Col Wilkerson case.  A transcript of the story, reported by Michael Isikoff, is available here.

31 Responses to “Complaining witness in Lt Col Wilkerson case interviewed on Today Show”

  1. Tami says:

    Can anyone provide a copy of Frank Spinner’s statement referenced in this story?

  2. k fischer says:

    Here is an excerpt and a link from another article:
    Wilkerson’s lawyer, Frank Spinner, told NBC News that Hanks had “lied about multiple aspects of the case” and there was “no physical corroboration” of her claims that his client had assaulted her. But Hanks’ account of events got powerful support late Tuesday when Col. Don Christensen, the Air Force’s chief  prosecutor who personally tried her sexual assault case, described her in an interview with NBC News as “one of the most credible witnesses I’ve ever dealt with.” Christensen said he spent hours interviewing Hanks and found her entirely “truthful.” “She never changed her story. It was always 100 percent consistent,” he said.

    If you watch the video in the link posted by Dwight Sullivan, you can pause at 2:19 and sort of read the letter that Frank Spinner wrote on behalf of LTC Wilkerson.  He stated that he was not going to argue the facts of the case, but informed the reader that a verbatim transcripts of the “lengthy and hotly contested public trial” existed.
    That’s a pretty strong statement by Col. Christensen, as I am assuming that he has seen quite a few witnesses in his time.  I would like to know what the multiple lies Mr. Spinner is referring to.

  3. Tami says:

    Thanks, I was watching it on the Today Show, saw the excerpt and was wondering if the entire statement was available.
    Watching the hearing right now.  At least Sen. Graham is trying to inject some sanity into the proceedings, pointing out it’s just as detrimental to morale for someone to be falsely accused/convicted and feel they have no legal recourse, or get a fair trial.

  4. Charlie Gittins says:

    In a “he said, she said” case, it is all about credibility.  I used to mine the halls interviewing persons who knew the complaining witness and find out every lie the person ever told, and locate as many people as possible with opinions of the accuser’s poor character for truthfulness.  If they’ll lie about little things, the members can easily believe that they’ll lie about larger things — like what happened in a situation where the wife says she threw the accuser out of the house in the middle of the night because she was roaming the halls making noise.  I am sure Frank did a superb job ferreting out all of the lies told by the accuser and used them against her.  Which is what he is paid to d — he has no better idea of the truth of the allegations than anyone else.  The prosecutor vouching for a witness?  Pretty bush league, if you ask me.  He has no better information than anyone else what actually happened or didn’t happen — he’s relying on a person with a potential motive to lie, if Frank’s statements are accurate.  A better question for him is whether the complainer actually lied in the past and did Frank prove it?  Unfortunately, this crappy little case is going to end up creating the devil’s spawn — bad law created by no-nothing politicians who have never served a day in uniform and wouldn’t know good order and disciplien if it bit them in the bum.  Break out the popcorn . . . . .  

  5. WWJD says:

    I watched the hearing for 5 seconds.  That’s all I could stand.
    There was an ugl on there stating she as no faith that the Military would prosecute or carry out sentences.  5 sec, and it was check please.

  6. ResIpsaLoquitur says:

    I like the part where NBC emphasizes that the Convening Authority “never attended the trial”–because there’d be absolutely no prejudice if one of the top dogs in your rating chain was watching the trial in which he ordered you to be a panel member.  I realize that not every basis for policymaking is going to make it into a 2-minute news clip, but that’s just unfair.

  7. Christopher Mathews says:

    A better question for him is whether the complainer actually lied in the past and did Frank prove it? 
    I’m pretty sure everyone has lied in the past.  Generally, we’re concerned about whether the witness is telling the truth in the here and now.  Granted, these are not wholly-unrelated concepts.
    It’s from that standpoint that the CA’s action is weakest to an outside observer: the members had the opportunity to see and hear the witnesses, and the CA did not.  They made their own determination of credibility and he overruled them.  He clearly had the discretion to do so, but just because he had discretion does not mean he necessarily exercised it wisely or well.

  8. k fischer says:

    This is a she said/she said case:
    –Wife says husband was in bed and she threw Hanks out because she was walking around the house and noisily talking on the phone.  She ordered the woman out of the house at 3 a.m.
    –Hanks says she was sleeping, felt discomfort, a light came on, she opened her eyes, Wilkerson had his finger in her vagina, and his face was six inches from her face.  Wife gets mad, and orders her out of the house.
    Does anyone know if Hanks’ cell phone records show that she was on her phone at 3 a.m.?  Because if she was, then there ain’t know way she was sleeping at 3 a.m.  If she wasn’t, then Ms. Wilkerson’s story is not true.
    We do know that Hanks was on her cell phone at some point late that night:
    “While many of the clemency letters came from friends and family of the Wilkersons, at least one came from a friend of the accuser, who did not know the Wilkersons. The woman wrote to Franklin that she and the accuser had exchanged multiple text messages on the evening of the incident and had spoken by phone around midnight. During the conversation, the woman offered to pick up her friend multiple times, she wrote, but her friend declined the offers…
    Over the next several months, the woman said her friend gave varying accounts of what happened that night.”

    So, it seems that the key is whether or not the woman’s cell phone records indicate she was on the phone at around 3 a.m.

  9. Phil Cave says:

    I don’t have a lot of faith in military chaplains.
    And this doesn’t help.

  10. Anon12 says:

    Mr. Matthews, your point also extends to the CCAs, who do not sit in the courtroom like the judge or members, yet who routinely make credibility judgment based on the ink they read on paper.  There’s so much more to credibility than that; it’s not just what is said, but the demeanor during which it is said, etc. It’s one of the problems I have always had with the factual sufficiency standard.   

  11. Tami says:

    The chaplain is busted.  Sen. Graham wants names.
    TJAGs are scheduled to testify at 2 pm.  Bring everyone back to reality please!  Trying to change the system so that we really mean it when we say zero tolerance means we have to have 100% convictions.

  12. ResIpsaLoquitur says:

    I’d like to hear the chaplain’s side of the story first–which we may never get.

  13. Christopher Mathews says:

    Anon12, you are exactly right.  It’s one of the reasons the CCAs are institutionally leery of exercising their “factual sufficiency” power under Article 66(c).  And if it is exercised, it’s subject to exactly the same criticism as when the CA does so, and for exactly the same reasons.

  14. Christopher Mathews says:

    Phil, do you happen to know if that chaplain is running for Senate somewhere?

  15. NOT Justice Kennedy says:

    RIL –
    If there even is a Chaplin that really told her that.  Not saying a female victim would ever make anything up.  I’m just saying a female victim could.
    Also, again a case were the female testifies that she DID NOT go to her command because she felt that they would not do anything.

  16. WWJD says:

    LoL, this is WWJD, my other persona was saved as “Not Justice Kennedy”.

  17. Lieber says:

    1.  A fair amount of people across a fair amount of religions and denominations believe, in a theological sense, that everything that happens is “God’s will”….I find it very easy to believe that there were some errors in communication between a chaplain and a victim.  In other words, a. I believe her story, b. I highly doubt the chaplain meant the statement the way it has been characterized. 
    2.  We absolutely have a problem with victims trusting the CoC….the defense bar doesn’t see all the non-reported cases etc..  Look, we had at least 62 victims at Lackland and not one reported it (the whole thing was broken by a third party).  That’s a problem.  We pay lip service to the idea that they can call the SHARP or CID or whoever, but what I hear over and over again from junior service members is that always staying within the CoC has been drummed into them to the point that they’re afraid to ever go outside it.

  18. Charlie Gittins says:

    Throw the Chaplain under the bus . . . . .  If I had been on the hearing panel I would have demanded the name of the Chaplain so that we could run that allegation to ground and give him the opportunity to explain 1) if he said it and 2) if so, why.  I doubt any Chaplain would be so stupid in these politically charged times to say anything that could be so construed.  Why is it that the military sets up a very formal program to investigate sexual assault and we allow those who it is meant to protect to decide whether to use it, and when they don’t, we accept at face-value their self-serving response that they didn’t “trust the system” in their sole discretion?  An alternative theory could be, “I had sex with a married man and didn’t relaize he was married and I might get into trouble for that and now I can claim to be a victim and have my 15 minutes.”  And, “I felt my chain of command wouldn’t do anything” is getting pretty lame as an excuse, particularly in these hyper-sex-assault-as-witchhunt days.  If her case was concluded to be adultery and it was more than 2 years old, they couldn’t do an Article 15, and is a court-martial really appropriate for adultery between 2 adults in this, the 21st Century?   

  19. Lieber says:

    Is any punishment by your employer (and a GOMOR is most certainly punishment despite the fiction we all partake in) for adultery really appropriate in the 21st century?
    If we remove adultery, indecent acts and the other consensual offenses, we’d a. remove incentives to false accusations, b. remove the ability of defense counsel to claim a motive for false accusations….it’s a win-win for everybody except the moralistic busy-bodies that make up too much of our homogenous officer corps.

  20. Neutron73 says:

    Lieber:  GOMOR?
    I agree that adultery is plainly inappropriate for charging someone in the military.  Why are we delving into what happens in the bedroom that is consensual activity between adults?  If it isn’t affecting good order and discipline, who cares? And it isn’t fantasy that, with today’s divorce laws, some service-members may be required to not engage in any relationship until their divorce is final, and that can take a real long time.  What is the benefit of that?

  21. ADAFJAGCTC says:

    Can anyone identify what is being whispered/who is talking at approximately 57:10 during Lieutenant General Harding’s opening statements? I put in ear phones and it sounds interesting.

  22. Cap'n Crunch says:

    I think I have the defense strategy figured out in this one:  “If his fingers didn’t smell like fish, you must acquit!”  Most compelling clemency package ever!

  23. k fischer says:

    Hittin’ the brown liquor at 1535 hrs, I see.  I have doubts based on my experience and the ways things work in the world that he could have gotten his hand in her pants, if they were facing each other on the bed. Hanks said that when she opened her eyes his face was six inches from hers.  Sounds like they were on their side facing each other.  If that is so, then she would have to kind of lift her leg up, so he could put his finger in her vagina.  Otherwise, it would have been quite difficult to get his hand between her legs and put his finger even on the outside.  And, wouldn’t his touch DNA be found on the vaginal swabs?
    And, what about his touch DNA being on the guest bedroom sheets? If it is the guest bedroom, then couldn’t CID have asked him if he folded the sheets, or slept in the bedroom, or done anything that would allow for his touch DNA to be in the sheets on the bed.   I would really like to know what evidence was seen by the panel.

  24. k fischer says:

    I could only make out “He’s a lawyer.”

  25. Mike "No Man" Navarre says:

    From General Ary’s Statement:

    The Article 60 clemency authority is also closely linked to the sentencing aspect of a court-martial. Article 60 provides the authority to modify the sentence of a court-martial, which is a key component of the guilty plea process. In our military justice system, an accused can submit a pre-trial agreement asking for sentencing protection in exchange for his or her plea of guilty. However, even if the plea agreement is approved, the military judge or members are unaware of the protection contained in the agreement and will sentence the accused in a manner they feel appropriate based on the relevant evidence and facts and circumstances of the case.  After the sentence is announced in court, the sentencing limitations agreed to by the convening authority will be honored in the post-trial process, pursuant to the convening authority’s clemency power under Article 60. If the convening authority lacked this power, there would be no incentive for an accused to plead guilty, which would greatly hinder judicial economy and slow down the adjudication of the entire court-martial docket.

    Article 60 interfaces with key aspects of the UCMJ and serves an important role in maintaining a commander’s ability to ensure a fair court-martial process. It is not a stand-alone section of the UCMJ that can be easily severed without significant effects on other key portions of the military justice system. Therefore, modifications to Article 60 should involve a thorough analysis by the RSP and JPP.

  26. Anonymous says:

    There is a tacit assumption in this debate that “trained lawyers” and “trained judge advocates” will do a better job, whether in the pretrial process leading up to referral or in the post-trial review process, in lieu of convening authorities as currently designated.  When conferring with a convening authority as a staff judge advocate, I was not always the most even-tempered or wisest person in the room.  When serving in other roles, judge advocates (frankly) did not always impress me with their wisdom.  Even if we move toward a system wherein, serving as independent convening authorities, judge advocates answer (at least formally) only to other judge advocates (as in trial defense or trial judiciary organizations), I am far from confident that the system will objectively improve.  Also:  there are already subterranean channels wherein what we now call UCI works unseen, and one should at least consider whether a judge-advocate run system will only drive it deeper underground.  Or perhaps sanitize it in plain sight, by making judge advocate organizations the openly sanctioned agents of a particular agenda.

  27. k fischer says:

    Anonymous @ 11:18 p.m., 
    I share your observations with regards to some judge advocates.  I’ve met Infantry O-5’s and O-6’s who had a better grasp on military justice issues than some TC’s I’ve seen.  My best cases have been against psuedo-idealistic, young, aggressive JAG attorneys who are convinced they are going to get a conviction; I know the type because I was one of those guys when I was a TC.  Each time, I offered some sort of compromise pre-trial agreement, which, while completely unreasonable in their eyes, in each case would have been better than the full acquittal they were stuck with.  Each one was in an office where the SJA ran the show and the CA appeared to be a rubberstamp. 
    One thing I learned as a TDS attorney is that you should not be afraid to offer a deal in a BS case that won’t hit the papers when the SJA’s office says they won’t support it.  If you get an acquittal, hopefully, the Convening Authority will remember your name the next time you put a deal in front of him or her and remember that the last deal the SJA advised be disapproved resulted in an acquittal.  If you have a high profile case, then you might consider holding off on a deal that the SJA won’t support because word could get around that Snuffy offered to plead guilty or submit a Chapter 10.  And hopefully, the Convening Authorities who leave everything up to their SJA will take a more active role.  Of course, this whole Senate hearing business reeks of the subterranean channels where UCI works unseen to which you refer.

  28. stewie says:

    I’m sure there are occassions where the JA while the most qualified isn’t the most sober.  No system is perfect.  There are CA who aren’t the most sober.
    It seems to me though since sobriety is something exclusive to neither JAs nor CAs that we are left with looking to some other useful common denominator, and to me experience, training, and specialized education would seem to win out.
    Doctors aren’t all equally good either but we don’t generally worry about what happens if we leave medicine in their hands.

  29. Anonymous says:

    Doctors work in an environment less politically charged; criminal justice is not an applied science.  Anyway, even doctors leave critical decisions up to the patient –if the patient is competent.  (Unfortunately, the Wilkerson case is instilling in the public mind that the patient is incompetent.)

  30. Lieber says:

    ah bullcrap.  sure I’ve known a few idiot young TCs (or in one case, not an idiot, but a true believer raving lunatic).  And no doubt some much more mature, older, infantry O5-O6’s have more sense than those few.  But overall, that’s lunacy to assert.
    What’s far far more common is for the SJA to recommend a deal and for the CA to turn it down.  The reverse is rare.  Quite rare.  And a lot of CA’s aren’t the sharpest.  And who do you think is ultimately more susceptible to political influence?  CA’s or JA’s?  If you answer the latter you live on a very different planet.

  31. k fischer says:

    I just be from Pluto, which I vote is still a planet btw.  Judge Advocates aren’t more susceptible to political influence?  Really?  I think the first time I heard the phrase “the CNN test” was in the hallowed classroom at TJAGSA.  
    And, I couldn’t help notice on Wednesday that those politicians did not call Lt. Gen. Franklin, his boss, or any other GCMCA to testify how their clemency powers enhance GOAD.  Rather, what I saw, and I might have been watching some live feed from outer space, were the TJAGS from each of the five freaking services. 
    I do agree that rarely does an SJA recommend disapproving a deal and the CA approves it.  Unless, the SJA is extremely aggressive and there has been a rash of acquittals and the CA has lost faith in his or her SJA.