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Hagel to review Air Force sexual assault case

Newly confirmed Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Monday he will review the case of an Air Force lieutenant colonel, convicted of sexual assault, whose conviction was thrown out by the Air Force general overseeing the court martial.

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Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, seen here at a March 1 press conference, announced Monday he will review a case involving an Air Force general who dismissed charges against a lieutenant colonel convicted of sexual assault.

Carolyn Kaster/AP/File

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A case involving an Air Force general who dismissed charges against a lieutenant colonel convicted of sexual assault will be reviewed at the top levels of the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a letter released Monday. But it's seemed unlikely that the ruling would be changed.

Hagel said that under military law, neither he nor the Air Force secretary has the authority to reverse Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin's decision to overturn the conviction against Lt. Col. James Wilkerson, a former inspector general at Aviano Air Base in Italy.

Hagel's letter is dated March 7 and was sent to Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who released it publicly. The Senate Armed Services Committee is holding a hearing Wednesday on sexual assaults in the military and the Wilkerson case is expected to be a major topic of discussion.

Boxer and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., wrote to Hagel last week asking him to look into the case. They called Franklin's decision to overturn the jury verdict "a travesty of justice." Franklin is commander of the 3rd Air Force at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

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