Air Force charges two-star Major General with sexual assaulting a civilian woman in historic case

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Air Force charges two-star Major General with sexual assaulting a civilian woman in historic case

The Air Force has charged a two-star Major General with sexual assault in what could be the first court-martial of a general officer in its 73-year hi

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The Air Force has charged a two-star Major General with sexual assault in what could be the first court-martial of a general officer in its 73-year history.

Major General William Cooley is accused of forcibly kissing and touching a civilian woman in August 2018.

Cooley faces a preliminary hearing on January 27, where a senior military judge could decide to send the case to a court-martial.

‘If Maj. Gen. Cooley actually is tried by a court-martial, it will mark the first time in the Air Force’s 73-year history that it has prosecuted a general officer,’ Don Christensen, a former top prosecutor for the Air Force, told USA Today

Major General William Cooley (pictured) is accused of forcibly kissing and touching a civilian woman in August 2018.

Major General William Cooley (pictured) is accused of forcibly kissing and touching a civilian woman in August 2018.

Cooley faces a preliminary hearing on January 27, where a senior military judge could decide to send the case to a court-martial

Cooley faces a preliminary hearing on January 27, where a senior military judge could decide to send the case to a court-martial

Christensen, who now runs an advocacy group for victims of sexual assault in the military, said senior officers often receive more lenient punishments than lower-ranking troops for similar crimes.

He added: ‘For far too long, the Air Force has operated a two-tier justice system in which senior officers are held to a lower standard than the men and women they lead.

‘Hopefully, this is a sign that the Air Force is finally recognizing the corrosive effect on good order and discipline when general officers are allowed to evade accountability for their criminal acts.’ 

Daniel Conway, Cooley’s attorney, denied the allegations against his client, saying the Air Force lacks evidence and voicemail messages from witnesses undermine the allegations.

‘On January 27th, we intend to show Gen. Cooley’s innocence using the accuser’s own words against the government,’ Conway told the US publication.  

The victim’s attorney Ryan Guilds said: ‘The victim knows what happened, what the evidence will show, and what the accused did.’ 

Daniel Conway, Cooley's attorney, denied the allegations against his client, saying the Air Force lacks evidence and voicemail messages from witnesses undermine the allegations.

Daniel Conway, Cooley’s attorney, denied the allegations against his client, saying the Air Force lacks evidence and voicemail messages from witnesses undermine the allegations.

The victim's attorney Ryan Guilds said: 'The victim knows what happened, what the evidence will show, and what the accused did.' Above, Cooley is pictured.

The victim’s attorney Ryan Guilds said: ‘The victim knows what happened, what the evidence will show, and what the accused did.’ Above, Cooley is pictured. 

General Arnold Bunch, who leads the Air Force Materiel Command at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, relieved Cooley of his command of the Air Force Research Laboratory in January this year. Cooley has since been serving in an administrative job under Bunch. 

During his role at the Research Laboratory, Cooley was responsible for managing a $2.5 billion Air Force science and technology program. 

Cooley, who earned a Doctor of Philosophy in engineering physics, joined the Air Force in 1998 and entered active duty in January 1990.

He has a twin brother, Dr Thomas Cooley, who works as a Chief Scientist for the Air Force Research Laboratory at the Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico.

Sexual assault is a ‘pervasive problem’ across the military and many survivors do not report their experiences for fear of retribution, argues Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.

Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, introduced bipartisan legislation in the US Senate to establish a ‘Safe To Report’ standard in the military in February.

She said: ‘Sexual assault is a pervasive problem across our military and despite assurances from the Pentagon and military leaders to address the issue, too many survivors still fear retribution for reporting their experiences.

‘We need to support survivors and ensure an environment where they can come forward without fear of punishment for minor offences.’ 

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