You see, Col. Wilkerson was convicted of sexual assault. And that is just the beginning of this sad story:
No, for some small moment in time, [the victim] must have felt relief that her assailant had been convicted of aggravated sexual assault.A couple of weeks later, Lt. Gen. Franklin wrote to USAF Secretary Donley in order to defend his decision. You see, overturning the conviction was met with shock and horror by the broader community, especially those of us working so hard to educate others about rape and rapists. His letter is a perfect example of why he should not have been in a position to overturn any conviction. He did what I have done many times - he empathized with a person but rather than understand this from a woman's point of view, as I do, he saw it from a man's. Many of his statements tell us that he just couldn't understand why a man of Lt. Col. Wilkerson's position would ever commit rape, therefore he had to make it believable that he wouldn't do so.
But her relief has turned to anguish. Lt. General Craig A. Franklin has overturned the conviction. He ordered the release of Lt. Col. Wilkerson on February 26 claiming, via a spokesperson, mind you, that there was insufficient evidence. Gen. Franklin believes his review of the case, and the letters he received in support of Wilkerson, hold more weight than the testimony of witnesses and the court martial authority of the judge and a jury of Wilkerson's peers.
Before the sentencing, Wilkerson "pleaded with the all-male jury of four colonels and a lieutenant colonel for 'compassion.'" They met his pleas with a sentence of a year in jail and dismissal for the Air Force. That also meant no promotion to colonel and no retirement for his years of service.
And now Wilkerson is free. He will likely retire with full benefits. It is unlikely he will be promoted but that is still up in the air, believe it or not.
It starts with the 91 letters sent to the General from friends, family, and fellow military members to ask for clemency in the case. General Franklin believes that rapists shouldn't have friends and family that don't believe he could ever commit rape. They should know the rapist so well that they should be able to see the truth in the matter. That is fallacy number one.
The letters painted a picture of a man who adored his wife and children. Well, of course, that kind of man would never commit rape, would he? That is fallacy number two.
Lt. Col. Wilkerson has also served in the Air Force a long time and with distinction, therefore he doesn't fit the picture of a 'traditional' rapist. Fallacy number three.
At this point, the General says he had to review all the evidence because the letters convinced him that Lt. Col. Wilkerson could not have committed sexual assault based on his credibility as a good person. If you are familiar with rape cases at all, you should have a good idea where this is going.
General Franklin places the victim in the hot seat and begins to scrutinize her part in this case. His first seven bullet statements are his opinion about her testimony, questionable in his mind, as you can imagine. It goes from her repeated refusal to take a ride home, to her preference to stay at the Wilkerson's home for the night, to her confusion over how she got out of a room and what time she actually went to sleep (though he felt the need to use the words "passed out" with "went to sleep in parenthesis).
The next two bullet statements tell us how the testimony of Mrs. Wilkerson was more believable than that of Kim Hanks.
Then he says the testimony of two overnight guests, underage children, was more believable than that of the witness. They didn't hear her cry out in the night nor hear the cries of Mrs. Wilkerson telling Ms. Hanks to get out of the house.
He goes on to wonder why the Wilkersons would have allowed children to stay the night if Lt. Col. Wilkerson had planned to rape his victim. This struck me as a strange conclusion to make. Rapists don't plan their crimes with their wives and wives often don't ask permission for the friends of their children to stay the night. The General is making assumptions in order to make the evidence fit his desired outcome.
The General goes on making assumptions - "the Wilkerson marriage before the night in question and in the immediate days and weeks after that night, showed no perceptible tension or change in their relationship. Had the alleged sexual assault taken place as the alleged victim claimed, it would be reasonable to believe that their relationship would change and that close friends would perceive this change..."
Again, more fallacy. The state of their marriage, before or after this event, should have no bearing on the case.
Then he takes a comment from a clemency letter from a friend of the victim who adds information not seen in court. At this point, I believe the General thinks he is privy to information unavailable to the judge and jury. As far as I can tell, he has not considered that this information is not given under oath nor has he considered that this woman may have been bribed, coerced, etc. after the trial. He is so willing to believe the innocence of Lt. Col. Wilkerson that General Craig is wearing blinders at this point in time.
He goes on to take the word of a witness not permitted to testify in court because the judge ruled that the testimony was not germane to the case. Obviously, since the information fits his desired outcome, the General found it very appropriate.
At this point in his letter, General Craig has finished his trial of Kim Hanks. He continues his letter and finally addresses Lt. Col. Wilkerson's role in the case. The General has great respect for the man because he played the role of an innocent man:
In addition, Lt. Col. Wilkerson waived his rights to remain silent, did not request a lawyer, and appeared cooperative throughout. The Special Agents who conducted the interview utilized a full gamut of investigative techniques in attempts to garner incriminating statements from Lt. Col. Wilkerson. He maintained his innocence throughout the interview, provided a written statement, never stopped the interview, nor did he ever ask for a lawyer at anytime. As I viewed the entgire interview in whole (twice), it was my consistent impression that Lt. Col. Wilkerson answered all the questions in a manner like an innocent person would respond if faced with ungtrue allegations against him..."And the polygraph test taken by Lt. Col. Wilkerson? The General never tells us the actual results but he does use an entire paragraph to tell us why polygraphs are unreliable.
In his final bullet statement, we get to the crux of the matter. It isn't about the guilt or innocence of Lt. Col. Wilkerson; it's about the believability of his situation:
...I was perplexed in relation to this conundrum - Lt. Col. Wilkerson was a selectee for promotion to full colonel, a wing inspector general, a career officer, and described as a doting father and husband. However, according to the version of events presented by the prosecution, Lt. Col. Wilkerson, in the middle of the night, decided to leave his wife sleeping in bed, walk downstairs past the room of his only son, and also near another room with two other sleeping guest-children, and then he decided to commit the egregious crime of sexually assaulting a sleeping woman who he and his wife and only met earlier that night.A reasonable doubt... that is all that is needed. And, in rape cases, the easiest way to find reasonable doubt is to believe that the accused is incapable of rape in the first place. I mean, why would that man ever rape that woman?
I get it. But I get it from the opposite point of view. I can't understand why the victim, Kim Hanks, would ever cry rape unless it actually happened. What woman would do so?
Which is why we send cases like this to court and if, on appeal in a civilian setting, multiple people are involved in the final decision, I could accept that a case might be overturned. But that isn't what happened.
This single case has called the entire Military Justice System into question. Those of us that are upset about the cases at Guantanamo Bay should be looking at this case as well. Something is very wrong when a single person, usually a man, can make a sweeping decision based on gut feeling and supported by hand-picked evidence. It strikes me as a royal prerogative, an antiquated system that we got rid of centuries ago except in the military justice system.
Which finally brings me to the latest mistake; one that my husband assures me could not have been prevented because the folks that make these decisions could not take into account all of the above. When Lt. Col. Wilkerson's conviction was overturned, he was reassigned to duty to Davis-Monthan AFB near
Phoenix Tuscon, Arizona. That city also happens to be the home of a large number of Kim Hank's family. They moved a man convicted of sexually assaulting their daughter to their backyard.
In support of their daughter, they gathered friends and held a demonstration in front of Davis-Monthan yesterday. I hope they plan on doing so repeatedly.sign the petition.
You can also contact Secretary Hagel and the DoD. Unfortunately, this isn't as easy as contacting your Senators or Representative so here are a few ideas.
Leave a comment with the DoD on their online comment page. If you want it to be seen by Secretary Hagel, make sure you state that and choose Department of Defense as your topic, not the USAF.
Twitter the US Dept. of Defense. Add hashtags #chuckhagel and #notinvisible.
Start following the DoD facebook page and comment as appropriate. Unfortunately, you can't leave a message or an original comment; you can only to respond to something they post.
Watch The Invisible War and have your friends and family watch it. This is especially important for those folks that get stuck in the idea that a rapist has a particular aura about him and could never be the nice guy that lives down the street.
If you're interested in reading past diaries about this subject, I've written two specifically about this case:
7:16 AM PT: And remember - if you want to see the Front Page pick up stories like this, then please share through your Twitter and Facebook networks! It's easy, the links are at the top of the page just under the title.