Marine colonel has child sexual abuse conviction dismissed 'with prejudice'
By CAITLIN M. KENNEY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 3, 2019
WASHINGTON — A Marine colonel had his conviction for sexually abusing a child dismissed Monday after an appeal before a panel of three military judges determined it could not find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Col. Daniel Wilson, was sentenced in 2017 to 66 months, or more than five years, behind bars and a dismissal — the officer equivalent of a dishonorable discharge — after he was convicted of sexual abuse of a child; six counts of conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman; and one count of unauthorized absence, according to the decision of the judges from the U.S. Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals.
Wilson has been confined to the Camp Pendleton Brig in California, according to his lawyer Katie Cherkasky.
Wilson’s court-martial took place at Camp Lejeune, N.C., where he was with the II Marine Expeditionary Force. He was accused of sexually abusing the six-year-old daughter of a fellow Marine in 2016. Wilson had previously worked with the girl’s father at another base, and when the girl’s family moved to Camp Lejeune, they developed a close friendship with Wilson and his wife, according to the court document.
Wilson’s lawyers asserted before the appeals court that the conviction of sexual abuse of the child is “legally and factually insufficient,” which the judges found to have merit, according to their decision.
Wilson was convicted of “sexual contact upon a child by touching, either directly or through the clothing, the genitalia,” and he did it with intent to gratify his sexual desire, according to the decision.
Judge Cmdr. Angela Tang wrote in the panel’s decision that the child’s testimony and statements presented at trial were “fatally inconsistent and wholly irreconcilable.”
“Based on the evidence, we cannot discern how [the child] contends the appellant touched her, when he did so, or how many times she contends the abuse occurred,” Tang wrote. “Faced with multiple descriptions of possible contacts — only some of which are consistent with guilt — we cannot find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt based solely on [the child]’s statements.”
According to the court document, the child gave four accounts about what happened, of which the first two were denials that Wilson touched her inappropriately. Tang wrote the panel also could not find enough evidence -- no witnesses or physical evidence -- that could make up for the weaknesses in the child’s statements.
The judges dismissed the sexual abuse charge “with prejudice,” meaning the decision is final and the charge cannot be retried.
The court also called for a rehearing on Wilson’s sentence for the remaining convictions for conduct unbecoming and unauthorized absence.
Wilson will continue to be held at the brig potentially for several months as the appeals decision is finalized, Cherkasky wrote in an email, adding he will then be released as he waits for a final decision on his case.
“Col. Wilson is relieved and grateful that his innocence has been established through the appellate process,” Cherkasky wrote in a prepared statement. “He has maintained faith in the military justice system throughout this extended process, and honestly believed that a neutral review of the case by the appellate court would clear his name.”
She said it was too early to tell whether he would be sentenced on the other charges or they would be dismissed and handled administratively.
“Col. Wilson hopes the convening authority recognizes the tremendous punishment he has already suffered and dismisses the remaining charges,” Cherkasky wrote.