The Marine Corps said it accidentally sent a letter of appreciation signed by the commandant to a Marine who recently retired as part of an agreement with the Corps after several legal convictions.

Now retired as a lieutenant colonel, in 2017 then-Col. Dan Wilson had been convicted of child sexual assault, but in July 2019 a military appeals court overturned that conviction.

Though Wilson’s child sexual assault conviction was dropped, his convictions for seven other relatively minor violations remained. In October 2019 Wilson came to an agreement with the Corps that saw him request retirement in exchange for being released from confinement and avoiding a re-sentencing hearing.

In late February Wilson received two letters ― one from Berger and one from President Donald Trump ― thanking him for his long career as a Marine. It is relatively common for retired Marines to receive letters of appreciation. But the Corps said its letter to Wilson was an accident.

“A retirement letter to Lt. Col. Daniel Wilson was mistakenly generated and delivered due to an administrative oversight by staff at Headquarters Marine Corps," according to a Friday statement from the Marine Corps.

The White House has not yet replied to a request for comment.

The nature of Wilson’s retirement left even him surprised to receive the letters.

“Typically, you get those at retirement, but I didn’t expect they would send them in my case, and I was mildly surprised and pleasantly so,” Wilson told Marine Corps Times in a Wednesday phone call.

Even if both letters of appreciation end up being mistakes, Wilson said he does not care.

“Why should I care, if it was a mistake or if it was an oversight?” Wilson asked. “It might take away the meaning for you, it doesn’t take away the meaning for me.”

Bungled accusations

The mistake was just another example of how the Marine Corps bungled the accusations against Wilson from beginning to end, according to a retired Air Force colonel and military sexual assault prevention activist.

“It’s like the final nail in a series of events that show that they didn’t take this case seriously from the beginning,” retired Col. Don Christensen, the president of Protect Our Defenders, an organization dedicated to ending rape and sexual assault in the military, said in a Friday phone call.

In 2017 Wilson was convicted by a jury of peers for sexually abusing a child, six counts of conduct unbecoming an officer and one count of unauthorized absence.

He originally was sentenced to 66 months in confinement and dismissal from the Marine Corps ― a ruling that would have caused him to lose his retirement benefits and register as a sex offender.

In July 2019 a three-judge panel with the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals overturned the child sexual assault charge, based on an appeals power unique to the military justice system.

The panel found the witness ― his alleged victim who was 7-years-old during her testimony ― inconsistent and unreliable, and used the court’s unique factual sufficiency powers to overturn his previous child sexual abuse conviction.

The alleged victim “was inconsistent in non-trivial ways that cannot solely be attributed to her young age,” the court said in its opinion.

The appeals court did reaffirm the seven other charges brought against Wilson, and in lieu of re-sentencing for those charges Wilson and the Marine Corps came to an agreement that saw Wilson request retirement from the Corps.

After taking the child’s testimony into consideration, Lt. Gen. Brian Beaudreault, the commander of II Marine Expeditionary Force, recommended Wilson be retired as a major.

But Wilson was only reduced to lieutenant colonel when he retired due to “judicial efficiency and administrative clarity.”

In addition to being reduced and rank and receiving an other than honorable characterization of service, Wilson has been barred from all Marine Corps bases.

Both letters of appreciation have Wilson’s former rank as colonel on them. But Wilson saw them as accurate.

“As of 1, March at 00:01 I was demoted to lieutenant colonel with an other than honorable characterization of service,” Wilson said.

Both certificates were sent in February, before he was officially demoted.

Shortly after receiving the two letters, Wilson took to Twitter to show his appreciation.

“Thank you for the kind words, Mister President (@realDonaldTrump), my Commander-In-Chief. I truly enjoyed my service to our Corps & Country. Also appreciate the letter from the Commandant...Semper Fidelis!,” Wilson said in the Tweet.

In a letter Wilson said he sent to the White House, he thanked the president while comparing his trial for child sexual assault to the president’s impeachment.

“You and I share a similar history in the recent past,” Wilson wrote. “Like you, I was subjected to an illicit ‘witch hunt.’”

Wilson told Marine Corps Times he was convicted by a “corrupt” military justice system only because of “political correctness” and the desire for those who served on his jury to get promoted.

“In today’s Me Too, Me Three generation ... literally, if a female Marine or any person comes up and points a finger at you, you’re guilty and then they’re going to prove you’re guilty,” Wilson said in the Wednesday phone call.

A 2017 study using FBI data showed that roughly 5 percent of rape allegations from 2006 to 2010 were false.

According to Department of Defense sexual assault statistics, 23.4 percent of military sexual assault accusations were referred to court-martial in fiscal 2018.

Out of the 482 courts-martial completed in fiscal 2018, 23 percent resulted in a service member being convicted on sexual assault charges.

Christensen said he hopes that in the future the Marine Corps puts safeguards up, preventing these types of mistakes from happening again.

“To have somebody who is convicted of felony charges and receives an other than honorable conditions discharge receive those kind of documents is a slap in the face of those who do serve honorably,” he said.

The Marine Corps’ statement said the Corps has sent Wilson a second notification correcting the “errors” and letting Wilson know the letter of appreciation was a mistake.

Share: