A two-star general in the US Air Force was convicted on Saturday of forcibly kissing his sister-in-law in her, marking the military branch’s first-ever court-martial and conviction of a general officer, according to a statement from the Air force.
maj. Gene. William T. Cooley was accused of three specifications of sexual assault and was found guilty for the first — kissing his victim “on the lips and tongue, with an intent to gratify his sexual desire” — by senior military judge Col. Christina M. Jimenez at Wright-Patterson Base in Ohio.
Jimenez found the general not guilty for the two other specifications, including causing the victim to touch him over his clothing and his alleged touching of her breasts and genitals through her clothes, the Air Force statement said.
The victim – Cooley’s sister-in-law — told the court that he had groped and kissed her after a family barbecue in New Mexico in 2018. She said that the general had asked for a ride after the social event, during which he had consumed alcohol.
“During the short ride, she said, he told her that he fantasized about having sex with her. She alleged he pressed her up against the driver’s side window, forcibly kissed and groped her through her clothes,” the Air Force statement read.
The victim and her spouse reported the assault to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations in December 2019, the statement said.
Nine other witnesses tested in the case, including family members, friends, and a digital forensics expert, the Air Force said.
Cooley pleaded not guilty and denied his sister-in-law’s allegation, it added.
Now convicted, the general faces up to seven years in prison and may be dismissed from the Air Force, though his rank cannot be reduced as part of his sentence, Air Force spokesperson Derek Kaufman told The New York Times.
Cooley previously served as commander of the Air Force Research Laboratory, but was relieved from command in January 2020 in light of the investigation into the sexual assault allegations, the Air Force said.
The sentencing phase for his case is due to start Monday, the military branch added.
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