The Air Force general who overturned a sexual-assault conviction for a star fighter pilot vigorously defended his decision in a lengthy letter, saying that accusations that he did not take sex crimes seriously were “complete and utter nonsense.”
Lt. Gen. Craig A. Franklin, commander of the Third Air Force in Europe, said in a six-page memo that he overruled the guilty verdict from an all-male jury because he had nagging doubts about the accuser’s credibility.
Franklin also said he had a hard time believing that the defendant, Lt. Col. James Wilkerson, could have committed “the egregious crime of sexually assaulting a sleeping woman” given that he was “a doting father and husband” who had been selected for promotion.
The letter, dated March 12 and obtained by The Washington Post on Wednesday, is Franklin’s first explanation for why he took the unusual step of granting clemency to Wilkerson, who had been sentenced to a year in the brig and discharge from the Air Force. He has since returned to active duty.