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50 PROTEST TRANSFER OF OFFICER GUILTY IN SEX ASSAULT

Associated Press

PHOENIX - Protesters rallied outside a Tucson military base Thursday to denounce the Air Force's decision to transfer a lieutenant colonel to Arizona after his sexual assault conviction was overturned by a commander, adding to the growing criticism of the military justice system.

The 45-minute demonstration by about 50 people was led by outraged family members of Lt. Col. James Wilkerson's accuser. They questioned why Wilkerson would be transferred to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base on the southern edge of Tucson, where about half the woman's family lives.

The protest came 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.

Kimberly Hanks, a civilian employee who works with service members, accused Wilkerson of sexually assaulting her after a March 2012 party at his house. Wilkerson and his wife denied the charges.

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 a 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.

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