Colonel Guilty of Molesting Child, Acquitted of Other Sex Offenses
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- After a marathon jury deliberation that stretched past eight hours, a decorated Marine colonel with 36 years of service was found guilty of molesting a six-year-old child by touching her genitalia, but acquitted of other charges including assaulting the girl and sexually assaulting an adult woman.
Col. Daniel Hunter Wilson, 56, was also found guilty of conduct unbecoming an officer for a pattern of crude and inappropriate behavior that resulted in his getting sent home just 10 days into a six-month assignment to a liaison post in Darwin, Australia.
Wilson, who has spent 240 days in the Camp Lejeune brig awaiting his trial, was accompanied into court by half-a-dozen security personnel, including uniformed chasers carrying handcuffs. Everyone inside the courtroom, packed with Wilson's family and the family of the child victim, stood in tense silence as they waited for the jury members to enter the courtroom and deliver the verdict.
"I know this is an emotional time, but please, no outbursts in the court," the military judge, Col. Pete Rubin, warned as members of both families wept silently ahead of the findings.
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Wilson was found guilty of the single molestation specification against the child, but found not guilty of penetrating the child with his finger. He was also found not guilty of assaulting another young child in the same family by licking her and smacking her buttocks.
The accusations of assaults against a child dated from a two-week period beginning in June 2016 and stem from the account of the six-year-old child herself, who disclosed to her mother that Wilson had touched her. Wilson and his wife and the victim's family had spent a number of evenings together at the Wilsons' home during that time period, and Wilson was observed drinking to intoxication and spending a significant portion of his time with the child on those events.
In January 2016, another woman accused Wilson of assaulting her on an evening in late December in which she and the Wilsons were sharing a hotel room in Beaufort, South Carolina. She said Wilson had, after an evening of drinking, twice jumped on top of her in bed and penetrated her with his fingers.
Defense attorneys for Wilson questioned the credibility of the woman, who also testified, and raised doubts about the specifics of her account.
Wilson was, however, found guilty of unauthorized absence for that trip to Beaufort. While he had been removed from his post as operations officer for II Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune due to the prior charges, he was required to check in daily with II MEF officials and had not been given permission to go on leave.
He was found guilty on multiple specifications of conduct unbecoming an officer for his behavior in Australia, which included making crude sexual comments to another colonel's wife, soliciting a scantily clad photograph of another officer's wife and sharing it with an Australian commander, later asking the same officer for a pair of his wife's underwear, and making a female office staff member uncomfortable with unduly familiar and crude Facebook messages.
Both prosecution and defense agreed he had done these things, but the defense team argued that the actions did not rise to the level of conduct unbecoming an officer.
Wilson remained stoic as the verdict was delivered, though his wife and other family members left weeping. The child victim's family excused themselves immediately, leaving the building as soon as the findings were read.
Throughout the trial, which ran almost two weeks, the family of the child victim was accompanied into court by a team of civilian legal counsel from the firm Arnold Porter Kaye Scholer, part of a program that represents alleged victims in military court-cases.
Ryan Guilds, a spokesman for both the family and the adult accuser from the firm, said the day was bittersweet for the accusers in the case.
"They believe all the charges and specifications were proven beyond a reasonable doubt," he told Military.com. "They also recognize that he was convicted of a serious offense against a child and they take comfort in knowing that he'll have to register and that he'll have to live with this for the rest of his life, and he should."
The adult accuser, he said, remained proud of the stance she had taken.
"She knows the verdict doesn't define what happened," Guilds said. "She knows what happened, she knows the truth of the situation. And she also knows that if she hadn't come forward, this person who has now been convicted of an offense against a child would have been out for the last 240 days."
Wilson's sentencing hearing is set to begin Sunday. His attorney, Phil Stackhouse, declined to make a statement ahead of sentencing, citing a court order barring counsel from talking to the press while the case was ongoing.
The charge of abusive sexual contact of a child carries with it a maximum sentence of 15 years' imprisonment, along with discharge and forfeiture of all pay and benefits.
"The family is extremely committed to ensuring that Daniel Wilson can never do this to another child again," Guilds said.
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