Lieutenant General Craig Franklin, commander of the Third Air
Force, was removed in September as the officer responsible for the
case against Airman First Class Brandon Wright, who was accused of
raping a female sergeant at Aviano Air Base in Italy, an Air Force
Following a probable cause hearing, Franklin agreed with his legal
advisers that the evidence against Wright was not strong enough to
proceed to trial, the spokeswoman said. The case has since been
shifted to a new jurisdiction and Wright has been charged again with
The case occurred at a time when the Air Force and other military
service branches were reviewing their procedures for handling sexual
assault prosecutions, in part because of the outcry over Franklin's
decision to overturn a jury's sexual assault conviction in the
earlier case at Aviano.
That decision was one of several incidents that fueled anger this
spring over a Pentagon report estimating there were 26,000 cases of
unwanted sexual contact in the military in 2012, a 37 percent jump
over the previous year. The report prompted a push by lawmakers and
the military to address the issue.
Senior Air Force officials reviewed the rape case against Wright and
decided that in light of a move toward new procedures, the evidence
should be re-examined in a new jurisdiction to ensure the victim's
concerns were fully aired, the spokeswoman said.
Wright, who was reassigned in September to the Washington area, was
informed by his new commander on November 12 that he had been
recharged in the Aviano case. A hearing is tentatively set for
January, the spokeswoman said.
News of Franklin's decision in the Wright case provoked new outrage
at the general.
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Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, a former sex crimes
prosecutor who has led efforts to reform the way the military
handles assaults, called for the Air Force to remove Franklin from
"Lieutenant General Franklin should not be allowed to fulfill the
responsibilities of military command because he has repeatedly shown
he lacks sound judgment," she said.
Kimberly Hanks, the woman who saw her alleged attacker's conviction
overturned by Franklin in February, called for the general's ouster
from the Air Force. She said in a statement the cases were examples
of an "extremely biased and broken military justice system that must
Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, who is leading a
push for tough reform of military sex crime prosecutions, said
Franklin's decision in the two cases proved the need for her
legislation to put prosecutors rather than commanders in charge of
deciding whether to take sex crimes to trial.
"For months the military has been arguing that commanders retaining
... authority to prosecute sexual assault is the solution to the
vast underreporting of sexual assault crimes in the military," she
said. "Franklin is a glaring example of how wrong that is."
(Editing by Lisa Shumaker)
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