Air Force major general convicted of sexual assault in first military trial

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Air Force major general convicted of sexual assault in first military trial

Ohio - An Air Force major general in Ohio has been convicted by a military judge of one of three specifications of abusive sexual contact in the first military trial of an Air Force general.

The charge faced by Maj. Gen. William Cooley during the weeklong court-martial at Wright-Patterson Air Force BaseAir Force Base in Ohio had three specifications, one alleging forcible kiss and two alleging forcible touching in 2018. Cooley was convicted on Saturday of the forcible kissing specification, but acquitted of the other two.

The verdict marks the first court-martial trial and conviction of a general officer in the Air Force's 75-year history.

A former Air Force Research Laboratory commander, Cooley was charged with abusive sexual contact in an encounter with a woman who gave him a ride after a backyard barbecue in New Mexico nearly four years ago. The woman is a civilian and not a Department of Defense employee, according to officials.

Cooley was to be sentenced Monday morning and could face up to seven years in jail as well as loss of rank, pay and benefits.

Cooley had the option of a trial by a court member juror or a military judge, but he chose to have the case heard by the judge.

Today is the first time an Air Force general officer has been held responsible for his heinous actions, the woman's attorney, Ryan Guilds, said in a statement. This will not be as difficult for the next survivor. Cooley was fired from his research laboratory position in January 2020 after an Air Force investigation and has worked in an administrative position since then. A message asking for comment was left for his attorney on Saturday.

In a statement, Col. Eric Mejia, staff judge advocate for Air Force Materiel Command, said that the case shows the commitment of Air Force leaders to fully investigate the facts and hold Airmen of any rank accountable for their actions when they fail to uphold Air Force standards.