Major General William T. Cooley, a U.S. Air Force general, was found guilty of sexual assault by a military court in Ohio on April 23, becoming the first general to be convicted in the 75-year history of the military wing.
Cooley was charged with forcibly kissing a victim while in a car after an evening barbeque in New Mexico on Aug. 12, 2018, according to an April 23 statement made by the Air Force.
“This case clearly demonstrates 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,” said Col. Eric Mejia, Staff Judge Advocate for Air Force Materiel Command.
In total, 10 witnesses testified at the trial, the first being Cooley’s victim, who described the assault and its impact as an “F5 tornado” that ruins “everything in its path.” On the day of the incident, both individuals attended a social event where Cooley had consumed alcohol. He asked her for a ride, during which Cooley made sexual advances on the victim and forced himself on her.
Cooley denied the allegations and pleaded not guilty. The victim and her spouse reported the assault to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations in December 2019.
Cooley was charged with sexual assault according to Article 120 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice with three specifications. As per the Uniform Code, an accused has the right to trial by either a sole military judge or by court member jurors. Cooley chose the first option.
Among the three specifications, the first was that the general kissed the lips and tongue of the victim “with an intent to satisfy his sexual desire.” Col. Christina M. Jimenez, the senior military judge in the case, judged Cooley guilty of this crime.
However, the judge dismissed two other crimes of touching leveled against the general.
Ryan Guilds, the victim’s attorney, stated that it takes incredible courage on the part of sexual assault victims to come forward and report the abuse, face trial, and get through the cross-examination.
“It is very hard to be a survivor in a criminal case. That is one of many reasons you see so few of these cases go to court-martial,” Guilds said. “At the end of the day, she wanted a process that was fair … She is incredibly grateful for the prosecution team that worked on this case.” The sentencing phase of the case begins on April 25.