Third Air Force Commander Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin has overturned the conviction of Lt. Col. James Wilkerson, former 31st Fighter Wing inspector general at Aviano AB, Italy, citing lack of sufficient evidence. Franklin rendered this decision in late February. Last November, a military court found Wilkerson guilty of improper sexual conduct with a female civilian base employee. However, “after a careful, lengthy, and thorough deliberation, Lieutenant General Franklin concluded the evidence presented at trial did not amount to proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and he declined to approve the conviction,” US Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa spokesman Lt. Col. Paul Baldwin told the Daily Report on March 4. Baldwin noted that Franklin “acted within his authority in deciding the conviction should not stand” and “would not have performed his duties had he taken any other course of action.” Authorities released Wilkerson from confinement on Feb. 26. Baldwin said Air Force officials are now determining Wilkerson’s next assignment and whether he will receive a promotion to the rank of colonel. “We’re working closely with Air Force headquarters to complete these actions as quickly as possible,” he said. Baldwin emphasized that Franklin “does not personally know” nor does he recall “ever interacting in any social setting” with Wilkerson.
In a nighttime ceremony contrived to continue concealment of many of its features, the new B-21 bomber rolled out of Northrop Grumman's Palmdale, Calif. plant Dec. 2. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the aircraft's advanced technology represents "deterrence, the American way."