US Defense Secretary Pushes For Overhaul Of Military Sexual Assault Cases

Karen McVeigh | The Guardian | April 9, 2013

Chuck Hagel proposes taking away commanders' controversial ability to nullify verdicts under 'convening authority' system

US defense secretary Chuck Hagel has recommended that Congress change military law so that commanders can no longer overturn convictions in military court for sexual assault and other major offences, he announced on Monday.

The proposed changes follow widespread outrage over the overturning of the conviction of a US air force officer found guilty of aggravated sexual assault, in a case which victims groups said was symptomatic of the military's failure to address an "epidemic" of sexual assault. Lt Col James Wilkerson, of Aviano air base in Italy, was found guilty and sentenced to a year in prison, but his conviction was overturned by Lt General Craig Franklin, the 3rd air force commander, and he was quietly re-assigned.