A senior Air Force officer at the center of a controversial sexual assault case has been demoted and forced into retirement after the
acting Air Force secretary concludedhe “did not serve satisfactorily in the grade of lieutenant colonel,” Air Force Times reports.
Last year, Lt. Col. James Wilkerson was found guilty in a military court of aggravated sexual assault, abusive sexual contact, and three counts of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentlemen for allegedly digitally penetrating a sleeping house guest, according to Stripes.
The case ignited a firestorm of controversy after his sentence was overturned and he was reinstated by Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin, the overall commander of Air Force units in Europe.
Now, Wilkerson will retire on Jan. 1 at the rank of major — one step below his previous rank.
Air Force Times has more:
Head of Air Combat Command Gen. Mike Hostage had issued Wilkerson a show-cause notification, which could have required him to make a case for staying in the Air Force. Since Wilkerson, an F-16 pilot, had more than 20 years of service, he was also given the option to retire.
“The acting secretary’s action was made in the course of a required officer grade determination upon Wilkerson’s request to retire,” according to the Air Force statement. “An officer is retired in the highest grade in which he or she served on active duty satisfactorily as determined by the service secretary.”
The move comes after another surprising twist in April showing other problems, when a woman reported an extramarital affair with Wilkerson and he had fathered her child. The Air Force later confirmed the allegations.
While the decision will be welcomed by activists, it’s still not enough for the group Protect Our Defenders, who have called for the removal of Lt. Gen. Franklin as well.
“This case is a perfect example of why the epidemic of rape and sexual assault in our military is pervasive and ongoing,” said Nancy Parrish, President of Protect Our Defenders, in a statement to Business Insider. “The Air Force Chief of Staff, General Mark Welsh has yet to hold Franklin accountable. If he is serious about addressing this crisis he needs to respond to Franklin’s biased and unfounded overturning of Wilkerson’s conviction.”
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