In a first for the US air force, a general is convicted of sex abuse

Major General William T. Cooley faces up to seven years in prison and dismissal from the Air Force. PHOTO: NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE U.S. AIR FORCE/FACEBOOK

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - 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 75-year history of the military branch, its authorities said.

Major General William T. Cooley was convicted of abusive sexual conduct on Saturday (April 23) by Colonel Christina M. Jimenez, the senior military judge in the case, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.

Cooley was accused of abusive sexual conduct with three "specifications" and was convicted of the first one, for "kissing her on the lips and tongue, with an intent to gratify his sexual desire", the Air Force said on Saturday.

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

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

A lawyer for Cooley, Daniel Conway, did not immediately respond to an email on Sunday.

The victim - who did not want her name used but consented to the disclosure of her family relationship to Cooley - said in a statement after the verdict that "the price for peace in my extended family was my silence, and that was too high a price to pay".

After an evening barbecue in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on August 12, 2018, Cooley, who had been drinking, asked the woman for a ride, she told the court, according to the Air Force.

"During the short ride, she said he told her that he fantasised about having sex with her," the Air Force said in its statement. "She alleged he pressed her up against the driver's side window, forcibly kissed and groped her through her clothes. Cooley denied the allegation, pleading 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.

Cooley formerly commanded the Air Force Research Laboratory, which develops warfighting technology for US air, space and cyberspaces forces.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.