On Monday, Lieutenant General Craig Franklin overturned the rape conviction of an air force service member who was found guilty by a jury. Franklin claims there was not sufficient evidence that the woman had been raped.
The Air Force fighter pilot was convicted in November for aggravated sexual assault by a jury of four colonels and a lieutenant colonel. He was dismissed from the Air Force and sentenced to one year in prison. Lieutenant General Franklin overturned the jury conviction using “convening authority” – an absolute power of a singe military supervisor to dismiss a jury decision.
The Lieutenant General’s decision has warranted outrage from members of Congress. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) said “The military needs to understand that this could be a tipping point. I question whether, after this incident, there’s any chance a woman assaulted in that unit would ever say a word. … There’s a culture issue that’s going to have to be addressed here. And what this decision did – all it did was underline and put an exclamation point behind the notion that if you are sexually assaulted in the military – good luck.” In a letter to the Air Force Secretary and chief of staff she said “His decision shows ignorance, at best, and malfeasance, at worst. I strongly urge you to undertake an immediate review of his conduct and consider removing him from his leadership position.”
Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) wrote a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel saying “This is a travesty of justice… At a time when the military has unequivocally stated that there is zero tolerance for sexual assault, this is not the message it should be sending to our service men and women, and to our nation.”