General’s Promotion Blocked Over Her Dismissal of Sex-Assault Verdict
But her nomination has been blocked by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), a member of the Armed Services Committee, who wants to examine Helms’s previously unpublicized decision to overturn the conviction, on charges of aggravated sexual assault, of a captain at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
Helms’s action mirrors another case that has drawn angry attention from Congress and prompted legislators to propose landmark changes in military law. In that instance, victims’ advocates called for the firing of Lt. Gen. Craig A. Franklin, commander of the Third Air Force in Europe, after he tossed out the sexual-assault conviction of a star fighter pilot in February.
In both cases, the generals ignored the recommendations of their legal advisers and overruled a jury’s findings — without publicly revealing why. Neither general was a judge and neither observed the trials, but they intervened to grant clemency before the convictions could be heard by an appeals court.