Protect Our Defenders blasted comments from Lt. Col. James Wilkerson in which he called his forced retirement at the rank of major less than a year after a three-star general overturned his sexual assault conviction politically motivated.
In the statement sent to Air Force Times on Friday, Wilkerson maintained he was innocent of the charge of sexual assault and said Air Force leaders had “apparently succumbed to external pressure from biased victim advocacy groups and congressional representatives on a political crusade.”
Protect Our Defenders president Nancy Parrish called Wilkerson’s argument “patently absurd.”
Last November, a military jury convicted Wilkerson, a former Aviano Air Base, Italy, inspector general, of sexually assaulting a house guest. Three months later, Third Air Force commander Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin set aside that verdict, which amounted to an acquittal. Franklin said he did not believe Wilkerson was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
A woman who was not his wife subsequently told Stars and Stripes Wilkerson had fathered her child nine years before after they had engaged in an extramarital affair. The Air Force, which began an investigation into the allegations, confirmed the affair and the child in June.
Wilkerson was issued a show-cause notification, which required him to make a case for staying in the military or to retire. Wilkerson elected to retire; on Oct. 16, Acting Air Force Secretary Eric Fanning approved the retirement at the grade of major, concluding Wilkerson did not serve honorably in the rank of lieutenant colonel.
“Lt. Col. Wilkerson’s actions have forever changed the lives of the victim and her family,” Parrish said. “He has brought disgrace to the uniform and our nation. Our military ‘justice’ system is to blame for why he is a free man, not politics. … Wilkerson had the option and chose to not attempt to show cause for why he should remain in the military. By electing instead to retire, he avoided the risk, based on a history of documented transgressions, of dismissal and a greater reduction in rank.”