The conviction and sentence of the 31st Air Wing former inspector general convicted in November of sexual assault was set aside by the Third Air Force commander on Tuesday, releasing the fighter pilot from jail and reinstating him into the Air Force.
Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin dismissed the case against Lt. Col. James Wilkerson, who a military jury had sentenced to a year in jail, forfeiture of all pay and dismissal from the service.
U.S. Air Forces in Europe spokesman Lt. Col. Paul Baldwin confirmed Franklin’s decision on Wednesday.
Wilkerson, the former 31st Fighter Wing inspector general and a fighter pilot, was convicted Nov. 2 by an all-male jury of officers of aggravated sexual assault, abusive sexual contact and three counts of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman. He had been accused of fondling the breasts of a sleeping houseguest and digitally penetrating her.
The woman, a 49-year-old physician’s assistant, testified in court that the March assault ended when Wilkerson’s wife came in sometime around 3 a.m., turned on a light, saw her husband in the woman’s bed and ordered the woman out of the house.
Wilkerson and his wife maintained Wilkerson was innocent of sexual assault. Wilkerson’s wife testified that she ordered the woman out of the house when she found her walking around in the middle of the night and that her husband never left his bed. Wilkerson never testified.
Franklin, the convening authority who brought the charges against Wilkerson, has not said why he set aside the jury’s verdict and sentence.
Convening authorities enjoy unfettered discretion to reduce penalties in criminal case dispositions. Dismissing an entire case, however, is extremely rare.