Airman Acquitted In Politically Motivated Sexual Assault Case

So basically when it was all said and done Lieutenant General Franklin who was forced to retire because of this was actually right:

An Air Force sexual assault case that spanned two investigations, a lieutenant general’s forced retirement and a finding of unlawful command influence ended after more than three years Wednesday with the acquittal of Airman 1st Class Brandon T. Wright.

A military jury made up of officers and enlisted personnel — six men and one woman — found Wright not guilty at Joint Base Andrews, Md., after three hours of deliberation.

The accuser’s former Special Victims’ Counsel said the verdict, although disappointing, was not a complete loss.

“I’m disappointed that the panel did not convict him; however, I am happy that the Air Force finally took the case seriously, as it should have from the start, and my former client received the day in court that she deserved,” Maribel Jarzabek said. “I think the fact that the jury deliberated for three hours and asked to see some of the evidence showed that this wasn’t the slam-dunk case that Gen. (Craig) Franklin and others predicted it would be.”

Wright was accused of raping a staff sergeant in her apartment near Aviano Air Base, Italy, after a night of drinking and socializing in 2012.

Wright’s defense, which focused its closing argument on the prosecution’s burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and what the defense lawyers characterized as inconsistencies in the woman’s statements over the past three-plus years, hailed the verdict.

Maj. Jacob Ramer and Cpt. Patrick Hughes said in a statement that “panel member(s) understood the importance of their role and gave their full attention to resolving the question before them.”

They also said that Wright’s unit had been “monumental in… helping him through the most difficult time of his young life.”

Wright did not testify.

After an Article 32 preliminary hearing in the case, then-Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin, concurring with the hearing officer’s and legal adviser’s advice, dismissed the case in 2013.  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read the rest at the link, but you have to like the spin the prosecution is coming up with.  What is the purpose then of an Article 32 if someone who accuses someone of a crime deserve to have their day in court like the prosecution claims?  Lt. Gen. Franklin has now been vindicated that this case did not have enough evidence to get a conviction.  Also if anything deliberating only three hours shows how weak of a case this was. Even more troubling about this case is that it was so weak despite having the entire Air Force legal community trying to get a conviction to include using unlawful command influence:

An Air Force judge has ruled that the service’s top legal officer committed unlawful command influence in a sexual assault case, partly for political motives. Nonetheless, the case will proceed to court-martial.

Lt. Col. Joshua Kastenberg, in a July 30 ruling in response to a defense motion to dismiss the case against Airman 1st Class Brandon T. Wright, found that Lt. Gen. Richard Harding, formerly the Air Force Judge Advocate General, had improperly influenced the case or had given the appearance of doing so.

One such instance, the judge ruled, was recommending that Wright’s case be transferred to another court-martial convening authority for a do-over after the first convening authority, Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin, dismissed the case in the summer of 2013. Franklin’s dismissal came after an Article 32 investigative hearing at Aviano Air Base, Italy.

Such transfers are almost unheard of. It happened in the Wright case, Kastenberg’s ruling says, in part because Harding was worried that “the failure to have charges preferred against SrA Wright would enable Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to gain needed votes on a pending bill to remove commanders from the court-martial process.”

The ruling took Harding to task for supposedly telling Col. Joseph Bialke, Franklin’s legal adviser, that sexual assault cases, absent “smoking gun” evidence about an alleged victim’s credibility, should be sent to court-martial. In so doing, Kastenberg wrote, Harding improperly attempted to shape Bialke’s future legal advice. Katsenberg ruled that the forced retirements of Bialke and Franklin after their handling of the Wright case created an appearance of unlawful command influence.  [Stars & Stripes]

All this case has likely done is force other convening authorities to send flimsy sexual assault cases to trial to protect their careers after seeing what happened to Lt. Gen. Franklin.



I am a US military veteran that has served all over the world to include in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Korea. I have been blogging about Korea, Northeast Asia, and the US military for over 10 years.