Sexual Assault Case Draws Widespread Criticism of Military Justice System

Sexual Assault Case Draws Widespread Criticism of Military Justice System

A military sexual assault case that began in 2012 has finally come to an end, but not without first stirring a wave of controversy and debate.

Last week, Senior Airman Brandon T. Wright was found not guilty of sexual assault – an alleged act that occurred after a night of social drinking over three years ago at a fellow servicewomen's apartment near Aviano Air Base, Italy.

The case was initially investigated by commanding officer Air Force Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin, who dismissed the charges citing lack of evidence. Franklin is hardly known as a pillar of military justice, however; after overturning the sexual-assault conviction of Lt. Col. James Wilkerson, he retired amidst a sea of mounting criticism (Franklin had overturned Wilkerson's conviction due to evidence that Wilkerson was 'a doting father and loyal husband' – a notion that was later dispelled when the Air Force confirmed that Wilkerson had fathered a child during an extramarital affair).

Senator Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY), who publicly condemned the outcome of Wilkerson case, was similarly outraged by the recent news of Wright's dismissal.

Gillibrand is hardly alone in her frustration; lawmakers, victim advocacy groups and even supporters of Wright himself have protested the manner in which the case was handled, particularly the delay. That is to say, the servicewoman who filed the charges against Wright waited over three years to have her day in court while Wright served almost an entire enlistment under a banner of unresolved sexual assault charges.

Regardless of the procedure itself, Wright's defense team ultimately expressed satisfaction in the case's outcome, praising not only the panel who delivered the verdict, but Wright's unit for their unwavering support over the past three years.

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