For the first time in the Air Force, a general is convicted of sexual abuse

An Air Force major general was found guilty of forcibly kissing a woman in 2018, in the first court-martial trial and conviction of a general officer in the military’s 75-year history, authorities said. .

Maj. Gen. William T. Cooley was found guilty of sexually abusive conduct Saturday by Col. Christina M. Jimenez, the lead military judge in the case, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.

General Cooley was charged with sexually abusive conduct with three “specs” and was convicted of the first, for “kissing her on the lips and tongue, with the intent to gratify her sexual desire,” the Air Force said Saturday.

Judge Jimenez found General Cooley not guilty on the other two specifications, including forcing the woman, who is his sister-in-law, to touch him over his clothes and to touch his breasts and genitals through his clothes, authorities said.

An attorney for General Cooley, Daniel Conway, did not immediately respond to an email Sunday.

The victim, who did not want her name used but consented to reveal her family relationship with General Cooley, said in a statement after the verdict that “the price for peace in my extended family was my silence, and that was too tall”. price to pay.”

“Doing the right thing, speaking up, telling the truth, shouldn’t be that hard,” he said. “Hopefully it won’t be as difficult for the next survivor.”

Ryan Guilds, an attorney for the woman, said many changes in the past decade have made it less daunting for victims of sexual misconduct by military personnel to come forward. These changes include policy developments that provide better support for accusers, increased sensitivity by military leaders to sexual assault, greater procedural protections for victims, and prosecutors who are more likely to believe survivors.

General Cooley’s conviction “is definitely a sign of hope,” Guilds said. “However, the reality is that every survivor who decides to come forward and make that brave decision will face a justice system that will be very challenging.”

He added: “In this case, it took him years to get to where he is today, and I wouldn’t wish that journey on anyone.”

After a late-night barbecue in Albuquerque on Aug. 12, 2018, General Cooley, who had been drinking, asked the woman for a ride, he told the court, according to the Air Force.

“During the short trip, she said he told her he fantasized about having sex with her,” the Air Force said in its statement. “She alleged that he pressed her against the driver’s side window, forcibly kissed her and groped her through her clothing. Cooley denied the allegation and pleaded not guilty.”

The case began after the woman and her spouse reported the assault to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations in December 2019.

General Cooley previously commanded the Air Force Research Laboratory, which develops warfare technology for the US air, space and cyber forces. He was responsible for managing a $2.5 billion science and technology program and An additional $2.3 billion in research and development, according to his Air Force biography.

In January 2020, Gen. Arnold W. Bunch Jr. relieved Gen. Cooley of command of the research lab “due to a loss of confidence in his ability to lead, in connection with alleged misconduct then under investigation.” ”, the Air Force said. . He added that since then, General Cooley has served as a special assistant to the General Bunch.

Sentencing is scheduled for Monday. General Cooley faces up to seven years in prison and dismissal from the Air Force, but his rank cannot be reduced as part of this process, said Derek Kaufman, an Air Force spokesman.

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