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Whatever happened to last year's breakout stars?
PHOENIX (AP) — The Air Force’s decision to transfer a lieutenant colonel to a Tucson military base after his sexual assault conviction was overturned by a commander has outraged the family of the woman who made the allegations, adding to the growing criticism of the military justice system.
The family says Lt. Col. James Wilkerson’ transfer of to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base on the southern edge of Tucson is upsetting because roughly half the woman’s family lives there. They’re planning a protest Thursday outside the base.
The news comes amid a congressional uproar over the Wilkerson case, and follows heavy criticism of the military’s handling of another case involving sex-crime allegations in California.
“They could send him to a number of places,” said Stephen Hanks, an orthopedic surgeon in Tucson who is the brother of Wilkerson’s accuser. “Why send him to a place where her family lives? It makes no sense.”
The woman, a civilian employee who works with service members, accused Wilkerson of sexually assaulting her after a party at his house. Wilkerson and his wife denied the charges but said the woman stayed at their house that night.
A military jury in November convicted Wilkerson, a former inspector general at Aviano Air Base in Italy, of aggravated sexual assault and other charges. He was sentenced to one year in prison and dismissal from the service.
But a commander overturned the verdict and dismissed the charges, saying he found Wilkerson and his wife more believable than the alleged victim. Wilkerson already has reported for duty in southern Arizona, where he will work as a safety officer for the 12th Air Force.
Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Brett Ashworth said military officials wouldn’t have known about the woman’s family in Tucson when Wilkerson’s transfer was decided.
“His assignment was based on his qualifications and the needs of the Air Force,” Ashworth said.
Wilkerson declined an interview request from The Associated Press.
The decision by Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin, commander of the 3rd Air Force at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, to overturn the verdict has been criticized by congressional leaders and advocates for confronting the problem of sexual assaults in the military.
The move led the Defense Department to propose that commanders be largely stripped of their ability to reverse criminal convictions of service members.
Under military law, a commander who convenes a court martial is known as the convening authority and has the discretion to reduce or set aside guilty verdicts and sentences, or to reverse a jury’s verdict.
Protect Our Defenders, which advocates for military members who have been sexually assaulted, is calling for Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to fire Franklin. The group’s president, Nancy Parrish, said the Wilkerson case demonstrates that the military justice system needs to be changed.
Commanders who have broad authority in letting cases go forward face a conflict of interest, Parrish said.
“They are incentivized to sweep these cases under the rug. A commander’s career is on the chopping block if a rape happens under his or her watch,” said Parrish, whose group is pressing the Defense Department on behalf of Wilkerson’s accuser.
The military justice system also came under heavy criticism in February, after a former soldier killed two police officers in California.
Records show the Army commander of the former soldier, Jeremy Goulet, allowed Goulet to resign from the military instead of facing a court-martial when he was twice accused of rape. The Army said a lack of evidence prevented it from prosecuting Goulet on charges dating back to 2006.
Critics say Goulet’s case is as an example of what can go wrong when military cases are dropped.
Goulet shot and killed two detectives when they went to his house to question him about allegations that he was sexually inappropriate with a former co-worker. Goulet died in the Feb. 26 shootout with police in Santa Cruz, Calif.
Ashworth declined to comment on the group’s call for Franklin to be fired. Franklin declined an interview request from the AP.
In a letter to a Pentagon official that surfaced earlier this month, Franklin said a combination of details led to his decision, including that the victim turned down offers to be driven home from the party, didn’t accurately describe the house layout and gave a version of events that he didn’t find credible. He said Wilkerson was a doting father with a good career, and it would be “incongruent” for him to leave his wife in bed, go downstairs and assault a sleeping woman he’d met earlier that evening.
Protect Our Defenders issued a response to Franklin’s letter Tuesday, saying Franklin’s account of the woman’s options for rides home was inaccurate, Franklin showed blind loyalty toward the accused officer, and that the jury found the woman’s story credible.
The star of “Beasts of the Southern Wild” charmed practically everyone at the Oscars, where she was the youngest best actress nominee ever; she went on to film a remake of “Annie” opposite Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz.
Carly Rae Jepsen
Jepsen, who had 2012’s song of the summer with “Call Me Maybe,” released the fifth and final single from her debut album in January 2013. She toured the U.S. in mid-2013 -- just as Daft Punk and Robin Thicke battled to succeed her as icons of the summer.
Honey Boo Boo
2012’s biggest reality star, the young pageant contestant Alana Thompson, had a quieter time this year, with a second season whose ratings were strong but whose buzz was a bit muted. America was, by now, accustomed to young Thompson, and outraged or scandalized reactions were reserved for other TLC programming, like “The Man With the 132-Pound Scrotum.”
Ocean missed out on the top Grammys for which he was nominated in early 2013; he bounced back quickly with featured appearances on albums by Kanye West, Jay Z and Beyoncé, and is at work on a new album. Things are looking up!
The “21 Jump Street” and “Magic Mike” star had a marginally less charmed 2013, with “White House Down” failing to connect with moviegoers and “Foxcatcher” delayed until next year. It may get worse before it gets better: His big 2014 sci-fi flick, “Jupiter Ascending,” looks … well, a little weird!
With their third album in 21 months hitting No. 1 immediately upon its fall 2013 release, the boy band that broke into America in 2012 would seem to be here to stay for a while. Still, they looked a bit nervous in their reaction shots during the Video Music Awards’ ‘N Sync reunion; maybe not this year, maybe not next, but eventually, the Justin of One Direction is going to break out. For now, though, things look good!
Lana Del Rey
The famously uncomfortable “Saturday Night Live” musical guest overcame endless mockery from 2012 to land her first top-10 hit in the summer of 2013 -- a remix of a year-old song, “Summertime Sadness.” As the co-writer of “Young and Beautiful,” the love theme from “The Great Gatsby,” Del Rey is such a front-runner for the best original song Oscar (last won by Adele) that there has been a direct-mail campaign to academy voters against her. The song was also played at the most romantic event of the year: Kanye West’s stadium marriage proposal to Kim Kardashian.
Wilson, who charmed fans of 2012’s “Pitch Perfect,” had a rockier 2013, with her sitcom “Super Fun Night” struggling creatively and in the ratings. Her next planned movies are both sequels, to “Kung Fu Panda” and -- hoping lightning will strike twice -- to “Pitch Perfect.”
Another 2012 music icon, Gotye won the record of the year trophy at the 2013 Grammys for “Somebody That I Used to Know.” He released no new singles in 2013, and has told the press he has been struggling to complete new material. Good luck, Gotye!
The golden boy of the 2012 Olympics, without feats of aquatic derring-do to distract the public this year, saw his always-tenuous persona completely shift from “amiable jock” into “utter dolt” with his E! reality series. Worst of all, the series was canceled.
In 2012, the young actress -- best known for her role in the indie “Winter’s Bone” and a supporting part in the “X-Men” franchise -- had marquee roles in the first “Hunger Games” film and in David O. Russell’s comedy “Silver Linings Playbook.” In 2013, she played to her strengths: After winning an Oscar, she starred in the second “Hunger Games” movie, on whose publicity tour she managed to charm everyone in America, and had another role in a David O. Russell comedy, “American Hustle,” for which she might just win ANOTHER Oscar. By 2014, she may end up running a major studio, or serving as president.
The breakout bikini model of 2012 made a repeat appearance on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue -- and got to do high-fashion spreads in Elle, Vogue and Vanity Fair. She was cast in a Cameron Diaz comedy, too. Some types of appeal are eternal!
E. L. James
The “50 Shades” novelist now gets to help share some input into a movie adaptation set for release in 2015. She probably never needs to work again! Isn’t that great? Isn’t that … just … great?
The “Gangnam Style” phenom performed at New Year’s 2013, but will spend New Year’s 2014 flipping channels to find his pistachio ad, his goofy antics having been outdone in the past year by “The Fox” singers Ylvis. Nothing meme can stay.
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