From Stripes, here:

The Air Force plans to investigate an allegation that fighter pilot Lt. Col. James Wilkerson, whose sexual assault conviction was overturned by a lieutenant general in part because the general believed Wilkerson was an upstanding husband and officer, had an extramarital affair in 2004 with a woman who says she subsequently gave birth to his baby, according to an email obtained by Stars and Stripes.

The planned Air Force investigation follows an allegation made by the woman, who says she and Wilkerson had a brief affair in Utah and that he fathered her child. She told Stars and Stripes in a phone interview that she and Wilkerson were intimate only once, after being introduced by mutual friends.


31 Responses to “Wilkerson Case Gets More Interesting”

  1. Charlie Gittins says:

    So what?  A one night stand 9 years ago?  Only in the puritanical US military would anyone be worried about something like this.  If every fighter pilot in all of the services was kicked out because of a one night stand on deployment or Det, there would be some gaping holes in ready rooms around the world. 

  2. Mike "No Man" Navarre says:

    Charlie–I think the criminal/administrative aspect is less interesting than the influence that would have had on his credibility with the LTG Franklin.

  3. k fischer says:

    Great!  Now, I’m going to have Blondie’s “One Way or Another” in my head for the rest of the day….
    If part of the reason LtGen Franklin dismissed the charges against Wilkerson was that he was a doting husband, then this allegation, if true, would be used by those who want to take Military Justice out of the hands of Commanders.
    On the other hand, this woman obviously had a father for the child waiting in the wings who adopted the child.  I’ve done a few of those in Georgia.  Don’t know why she feels the need to bring this up, other than to have her 15 minutes.  Statute of limitations has run, so they can’t do anything about it, unless they revoke his security clearance. 

  4. A. Hernandez says:

    What would be the purpose of this investigation?   If he was married to his wife nine years ago and they worked it out, how is that relevant now?  If he was married to somebody else nine years ago, that affair has nothing to do with his current marriage. 
    If the Lt. Col. tells the investigators through his attorney that he does not wish to make a statement, then what?  A comment through an Air Force spokesperson (or leak from “an Air Force source”) that “we approached Lt. Col . Wilkerson and he is not cooperating with the investigation.” Is this a warning to other CA’s that they may not know their own officers as much as they think they do?   (I think most of us realize that).  
    They should keep track of the time, travel and resources used doing this.

  5. k fischer says:

    Apparently, LTC Wilkerson’s transfer has ruffled the feathers of Ms. Hank’s family.  
    What’s the story on Nancy Parrish?  Look at her quote in the Article:
    “Protect Our Defenders, which advocates for military members who have been sexually assaulted, is calling for Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to fire Franklin. The group’s president, Nancy Parrish, said the Wilkerson case demonstrates that the military justice system needs to be changed.
    Commanders who have broad authority in letting cases go forward face a conflict of interest, Parrish said.
    “They are incentivized to sweep these cases under the rug. A commander’s career is on the chopping block if a rape happens under his or her watch,” said Parrish, whose group is pressing the Defense Department on behalf of Wilkerson’s accuser.
    Her quote that a commander is incentivized to sweep a rape charge under the rug out of fear that a rape happening on his watch will put them on the chopping block is completely disingenuous.  Ms. Parrish should know darn good and well that organizations such as hers has had the completely opposite effect on the prosecution of sexual assault.  Has anyone who advises commanders ever heard in the past three years any commander say, “Hey, we need to sweep this rape case under the rug because I’m afraid I won’t get promoted unless we do”?  I never heard that in my two years as a TC back in ’02-’03, in fact, I heard the opposite from a Commander after I suffered the humilition of a full acquittal, “At least we don’t have to worry about CNN or 60 Minutes asking us why we didn’t prosecute a rapist.”

  6. Brian Bouffard says:

    It’s heartening to see that all other more pressing problems have been eradicated, so that the Air Force can focus its attention on this.  Truly, we live in a utopia.

  7. AF CMJ says:

    Come on now; give the Air Force a break. We’re in an untenable position here; Isuites nobody wants to look into this, but with the allegation made what choice is there? See an AF Times story that we are again “sweeping Wilkerson’s misconduct under the rug?” Most CC’s don’t want to deal with these kind of allegations but with the optics on Wilkerson being to bad there really was no other choice. I do hope this allegation gives 3 AF/CC pause to ponder his belief that an officer and family man like Wilkerson wouldn’t engage in sexual misbehavior (admittedly of a less serious variety). I respect the General for his willingness to make a tough call knowing what the blow-back might be, but that doesn’t mean it was the right call.
    KF, completely agree with your comment about the command climate right now. There is palpable tension in every convening authority discussion with regard to any COA that is not clearly the most aggressive stance we can take.

  8. k fischer says:

    These allegations, if true and known at the time of the trial, could have been used to impeach Beth Wilkerson on the stand after she testified:
    Q. And so do you in any way, shape or form feel that you have to save your marriage to have some livelihood for you and your son?
    A. No, Sir.
    Q. If, in fact, these allegations were true, would you, for one minute, abide what your husband did?
    A. Absolutely not.
    ROT at 769.
    Isn’t it true that your husband cheated on you before?
    In fact, he fathered a child after a one night stand?
    And he surrendered his parental rights, so his child could be adopted and raised by another man.
    And, he did this with your knowledge.
    And, you did not divorce him.
    Perhaps, by “absolutely not,” Beth Wilkerson meant she wouldn’t abide by her husband sexually assaultingg a sleeping woman or if she caught him attempting to cheat on her again, but I kind of took it as if she caught him in bed with another woman she would absolutely not abide by that.

  9. Mack says:

    It isn’t too late to use this evidence in an administrative board, which is still technically on the table.  So, not a complete boondoggle.
    @ k fischer — I have seen commanders who refused to do Health & Welfare Inspections because they didn’t want to find anything (and others who have actually advertised that the inspection was forthcoming for a full week before it happened).  So the allegation isn’t beyond realm of possibility.  Certainly, rape cases are different and nowadays tend to spiral everyone out of control.  But has anyone else noticed that that does somewhat manifest itself as “downplaying” cases initially in an effort to keep it from being a “rape” case until you’re absolutely sure that it is.  I know that I’ve seen victims who later testified that they didn’t say it was “rape” at first because they didn’t want all the attention and just wanted to move on.

  10. k fischer says:

    I haven’t noticed anyone initially downplaying sexual assault cases.  In fact, my experience is akin to what AF CMJ says above.  They are handled very aggressively, sometimes, IMO, without attempting to corroborate the accuser’s story with independent evidence, which had they, would have shown that the accuser was lying.

  11. Lieber says:

    Well, a GOMOR is the obviously likely outcome.  With that said, another factor (if true) to make LTG Franklin look like an idiot.  Also another reason for “good soldier” defenses to go away…

  12. Ed says:

    Is part of PC that Dr. Hanks is now in charge of Air Force Personnel Assignments?

  13. Christopher Mathews says:

    I seem to recall some opining here that the GCMCA action meant Lt Col Wilkerson would get to pin on O-6.  This would seem to be enough to ensure he doesn’t, if the service is so inclined.

  14. k fischer says:

    Phil Cave, how’dya like these apples?

    I don’t think it is an Article 37 violation, but I still don’t like it……….

  15. Lieber says:
    it’s over.  And the GCMCAs will be getting it their early bird tomorrow.  it’s not uci if Congress does it, but the message will be received.
    sidenote, what the heck is the Air Force doing?  Army CGs don’t ignore their SJAs and panels like that.  Also, look at the ranks involved…that doesn’t help either.

  16. ResIpsaLoquitur says:

    Well, crud.  I hope that somebody can at least point out to Susan Burke that this isn’t just a “fighter pilot protectionism” issue.  General Helms is a “weapons engineer” by trade (not sure if that involves flying or not) and then went on to be an astronaut.  I think she’s been largely space and missile tracked ever since.  I had her pegged to be a rare female 4-star–hope that isn’t sidetracked now. 

  17. D Wright says:

    Agree with Lieber. 2 out of the 3 who had convictions disapproved were officers?   And what percentage of AF sex asslt convictions are officers?  Definitely does not look good.    

  18. Phil Cave says:

  19. ResIpsaLoquitur says:

    Of course, the alternative to CAs not having Article 60 power is for them to simply not refer the case to trial, or not not refer any charges on which they have doubts.  Perhaps they could even require their Article 32 IOs to assess not just probable cause, but also whether the 32 evidence meets the reasonable doubt standard.  (I realize that 32s lack the compulsory powers of a court-martial, but maybe stricter expectations from CAs would help?)

  20. stewie says:

    I dont think the answer is to have 32 IOs, who are often junior O4s who are next up on the duty roster, apply the BRD std at 32s either officially or advisory.

  21. ResIpsaLoquitur says:

    Maybe it depends on the installation and the service, but I’ve seen plenty of O-5s who love to do 32 duty.  Particularly among the reserve community–it gives them something more substantive to do than catching up on mandatory training and writing minor legal reviews.  Find out which of your reservists are available to do a 32, then have their duty period coincide with when the 32 gets scheduled.

  22. Ama Goste says:

    RIL, you must be USAF; my understanding is that other services don’t use lawyers as their 32 IOs.  I do think it’s interesting that a female convening authority granted clemency in the Vandenburg case.  Her testimony before McCaskill and company would be interesting.

  23. ResIpsaLoquitur says:

    I’m going batty trying to find some kind of details on the Vandenberg case.  Google isn’t turning up anything.  You’d think a captain getting convicted of SA would have made somebody’s news somewhere.  Anybody know any details?

  24. k fischer says:

    Liber posted a link above to a story in March regarding the Vandenberg case that has quite a few details.

  25. ResIpsaLoquitur says:

    Well, yeah, I saw that, but it’s a recent article that’s heavy with the perspective of one of the complaining witnesses (and she’s the witness on an acquitted charge, to boot).  I was looking more for an article contemporaneous with the conviction (“Air Force Captain Convicted of Sexual Assault at Vandenberg”), that sort of thing.  (I have found articles of a Captain convicted of SA at Vandenberg in 2009, but this case was apparently in 2011 and doesn’t appear to be the same one.)

  26. Phil Cave says:

    Here is a thought.
    The problem begins with the investigation, incomplete and potentially biased against the accused.  Especially if the accused has invoked.  Likely to be a continuing problem if the investigators refrain from too much investigation for fear of being criticized for insensitivity.  So confirmation bias is already built in.
    Accused gets counsel.  Counsel advises, and (most of the time) client remains silent.
    Article 32 happens, usually without a lot of input from accused.  Or even if there is, devalued in review.
    So, case gets referred.  Partly because there’s nothing from the defense arguing against it.  Sure, understand there are discussions between counsel, etc.  But, the CA isn’t involved.  How many times will a CA sit down with the defense to hear why the case should not be referred to trial.
    Case goes to trial.
    Accused decides to put on a defense – testifies, calls witnesses, produces evidence.
    Convicted regardless.
    CA now has a fuller picture based on the defense effort at trial.
    Now what seemed like one case is different and the CA has more information and then decides  . . . . (wow, if only i’d known that defense information I wouldn’t have referred this to trial.)  In other words by the time it comes back around the amount of information available is different and potentially more developed.
    Just a thought.

  27. AF Capt says:

    PC:  There is still an underlying assumption to your hypothetical that would be troubling to most Americans.  Specifically, that the CA ought to be able to overrule a panel that reached the opposite conclusion by viewing the same evidence.  Being tried by a group of peers, be it a jury or a panel, is a right held deeply in the American psyche.  It’s held there not just because of a belief that it gives a fair trial to defendant, but also because it allows society to speak through Joe Six Pack.  The idea that one man acting alone can overrule that group is deeply troubling to people, as seen in the unpopularity of a governor using pardon power (e.g. Huckabee & Dukakis) or the CA vacating a finding (e.g. Franklin & Helms).

  28. AF Capt says:

    I should add that I offer my comment not so much for the argument that most Americans are right in their concern, as that its an important dynamic in the political discussions going on.

  29. Phil Cave says:

    Agreed AFC about the rule.
    I was just trying to think of why a CA would change their opinion of the case.
    I was looking at Winthrop, and he observes that the findings of the court are merely a “recommendation,” and the reviewing officer (RO) (read CA) could disapprove the findings if, “the findings or a part of them are unwarranted by the testimony.”  He then goes on to explain the unfettered discretion of the RO (discretion without restriction).  I think we’ve discussed this already, but the idea of how a CA acts is of longstanding in military practice.  There was not universal acceptance of continuing the CA action at the time of the congressional discussions.  But I think the American public has gone untroubled about the CA power for centuries, until now of course.
    I don’t know that a loss of CA power to set aside findings is necessarily going to break the system.  But I wonder such an effect.  I’m not so much worried about a “wilkerson,” he was going to get a 66 review.  But my sense is that the CA ability to affect findings has helped quite a few enlisted people and who did not get a “jurisdictional” sentence.  If they really do take this issue up then it ought to be combined with a look at the appeal rights of those cases where the accused plead not guilty, was convicted, and didn’t get a year/PD.  Until that is changed I don’t think there is a clear argument for a robust system of appellate review.

  30. ResIpsaLoquitur says:

    I wonder what makes something a “robust” system of review.  I’m working on a pro se habeas case by a military petitioner right now.  I’ll state up front that he doesn’t have a snowball’s chance of a federal court overturning his conviction where the military courts denied him relief and SCOTUS already denied cert. 
    Having said that, I feel for the guy a little.  He and every other defendant out there put his life in the hands of a lawyer and rank the risk of having his case blown.  If your defense counsel didn’t object to something at trial, it’s waived.  If your counsel doesn’t raise an issue on appeal, it’s waived.  If he did raise it but the military courts denied it, the military court gets deference and the federal courts probably won’t even consider it. 
    If you later discover that your counsel did something wrong, you might be estopped from asserting that defense.  Or you could raise IAC, but that’s a nearly-insurmountable defense, and the court might say that even if your counsel did err, you weren’t prejudiced by it.  I get the feeling that unless your defense counsel performs flawlessly at trial, trial is pretty much your only shot and preventing a conviction.
    I’m really curious–how many military cases are overturned on appeal due to insufficient evidence, as opposed to some purely legal issue (improper and prejudicial evidentiary ruling, or improper charging, or some constitutional issue)?  Are there any numbers on that?