Fox News reported that Air Force Maj. Gen. William Cooley was found guilty this past Saturday on a charge of sexual misconduct.
According to the network, Cooley’s case represents the first time that an Air Force general has ever been convicted of a criminal offense.
Cooley faces up to seven years in prison
Fox News explained that the general had been accused of forcibly kissing a civilian woman in 2018 when she drove him home from a New Mexico barbeque.
In addition to assaulting the victim, Cooley was also charged with two misconduct on two other incidents. He was acquitted on those counts.
Cooley’s verdict came following court-martial proceedings that went on for weeks at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio. His conviction means that he could go to prison for up to seven years as well as face the loss of his rank, pay, and benefits.
Col. Eric Mejia serves as staff judge advocate for Air Force Materiel Command, and he said that Cooley’s trial sends an important message.
“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,” Fox News quoted Mejia as saying.
Victim was general’s sister-in-law
Ryan Guilds was the victim’s attorney, and he expressed hope that Saturday’s verdict will help other sexual assault survivors.
“Today marks the first time an Air Force general officer has been held responsible for his heinous actions,” Guilds said in a statement quoted by the Dayton Daily News. “Hopefully, this will not be as difficult for the next survivor,” he added.
Guilds also alluded to the fact that the woman Cooley victimized was his sister-in-law, saying, “Sometimes family members are the abusers, abusers who count on silence in order to wield their extensive power.”
The Daily News also quoted Gen. Arnold Bunch, under whom Cooley worked as an assistant. He declared, “I implicitly trust our military judicial system, and respect the decision of the judge.”
“As an institution, we are committed to holding all Airmen accountable, regardless of rank, when their actions don’t meet Air Force standards,” Bunch stressed.