In the historically first military trial with a general in the 75-year history of the US Air Force, a two-star general was found guilty on Saturday of rude sexual contact for forcibly kissing his sister-in-law after a family barbecue.
Major General William Cooley faces up to seven years in prison, dishonest release and loss of air force salary and benefits at a hearing scheduled for Monday.
The woman, his brother’s wife, said in a statement that she was following the case because her two daughters “deserve the world, deserve a system, military or otherwise, where they never have to share lies to protect the power structure, protect the predator.”
She said she felt during Cooley’s weekly trial accompanied by the ghost of Vanessa Guillen, a soldier who was sexually harassed and killed in Fort Hood in 2020.
“With today’s actions, I hope the world they live in is a little safer,” she said.
Her lawyer, Ryan Guilds, said the woman had given permission to divulge her family relationship to Cooley so that the public would fully understand the case.
Cooley’s lawyer declined to say on Saturday, saying the matter remained open. He can appeal against the verdict.
During the trial, which began on April 18, military prosecutors accused Cooley of drinking a lot of family cooking in New Mexico in 2018 and then trying to force his sister-in-law after spending years fantasizing about her seduction.
She took Cooley to another family home to pick up some items after the barbecue when he tried to put her hand on his crotch, kissed her violently as he pushed her into the car window, and then touched her breasts and genitals, the plaintiffs said.
Prosecutors said Cooley confessed what had happened in a note to his sister-in-law and brother, as well as in e-mails to himself, which he later deleted.
In a family note, Cooley reportedly wrote that he was overwhelmed that the couple had injured “for their own selfish ego.” He also told how he saw driving his sister-in-law as a chance to add another attractive woman to his list of romantic outbursts, the plaintiffs claimed.
The Air Force fired Cooley as commander of the branch’s prestigious research laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio in January 2020 after a woman at the branch reported him. Military prosecutors eventually accused him of brutal sexual contact, claiming that the crime had three elements: forcibly kissing a woman, touching her breasts, and caressing her genitals.
Cooley denied guilt and decided that his case would be heard by a judge rather than a jury. He also decided against self-defense testimony. His legal team claimed that he did nothing but kiss his sister-in-law with consent. She testified and on Tuesday, the first day of her testimony, shared her account from the witness stand.
A military judge, Colonel Christina Jimenez, took action on Friday and convicted Cooley of a violent kiss on Saturday, finding him innocent on any of the groping charges.
The verdict is the first of its kind in the 75-year history of the Air Force.
Cooley’s prosecution unfolded as the U.S. military worked to reform its treatment of allegations of sexual abuse as a result of a series of scandals, such as Guillen, who complained that the sergeant had sexually harassed her before she was beaten to death. a comrade who later killed himself.
A statement by Eric Meji, a colonel and attorney-at-law for the Air Force’s material headquarters, told the Associated Press that Saturday’s verdict “clearly demonstrates the determination of air force leaders to fully investigate the facts and hold pilots of any rank accountable for their actions if they do not meet aviation standards. “.