Air Force's Wilkerson to Retire as Major

Air Force Lt. Col. James Wilkerson

Lt. Col. James Wilkerson, an F-16 pilot whose overturned conviction for a sexual assault prompted a movement to change the way the military prosecutes sex crimes, will retire Jan. 1 as a major, the Air Force Times is reporting.

Wilkerson, who has more than 20 years in the Air Force, was forced to retire earlier this month, sparing him from an administrative hearing that would have decided whether to retain or separate him.

Acting Air Force Secretary Eric Fanning “concluded that Wilkerson did not serve satisfactorily in the grade of lieutenant colonel” to warrant retirement at that rank, said a statement by Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Laurel Tingley, the Air Force Times said.

“An officer is retired in the highest grade in which he or she served on active duty satisfactorily as determined by the service secretary,” the statement said.

Wilkerson was a major at the time of a 2004 affair that resulted in the birth of a child. In May, a 12th Air Force investigation concluded that Wilkerson had committed adultery and had not behaved as an officer and a gentleman when he had the 2004 affair.

The revelation of that affair followed Wilkerson's November 2012 conviction of aggravated sexual assault of a physician’s assistant who was spending the night at his home in Aviano, Italy, where he was based at the time as inspector general for the 31st Fighter Wing.

But the conviction was overturned by Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin, Third Air Force commander, in February. Wilkerson was reinstated, and Franklin tried to get Wilkerson promoted to colonel and to “get him flying again.” Franklin's decision to overturn the jury verdict turned into a national story and outraged lawmakers.

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