The same day military victims of sexual assault testified at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, NBC News aired an interview Wednesday with the woman whose accusation ultimately led to the court-martial conviction in November of an Air Force lieutenant colonel based at Aviano, Italy. In a twist that critics say undermines the military’s effort to stamp out sexual assault, Lt. Col. Craig Wilkerson’s conviction was overturned by Air Force Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin in late February after reviewing the evidence presented at the court-martial.
The dismissal, a power which military commanders have held since 1775, has drawn sharp criticism from lawmakers. Bills in both the House and the Senate aim to strip military commanders of clemency power, a move that would come too late for Kimberly Hanks. The American civilian physician’s assistant accused Wilkerson of climbing into a bed with her at a party at his home in May 2012 and touching her sexually without her consent.
Hanks told NBC News’ Michael Isikoff that she was stunned when she heard about the reversal. “It looks to me like he is protecting one of his own,” she said.
In a statement to NBC News, Wilkerson’s lawyers, Frank Spinner, accused senators of political grandstanding and said they hope “others will recognize some women make false claims of sexual abuse.”
Staff writer Kristin Davis has been covering this story closely for Air Force Times. Read more of Davis’ coverage here: