A two-star Air Force general may face a court martial as military prosecutors charged him with sexual assault after he allegedly forcefully kissed and groped a civilian woman.
It would be the first court martial of a general in the Air Force’s history, according to USA Today.
Maj. Gen. William Cooley, who previously headed the Air Force Research Laboratory, was charged with one count of sexual assault for an August 2018 in which he allegedly made unwanted sexual advances toward the woman.
The Air Force said the woman was not a Department of Defense employee, but did not disclose any other information.
The general will next face a hearing, similar to a civilian grand jury, where a senior military judge will review the evidence and could send Cooley to a court martial.
“If Maj. Gen. Cooley actually is tried by a court-martial, it will mark the first time in the Air Force’s 73-year history that it has prosecuted a general officer,” Don Christensen, a former Air Force prosecutor and head of Protect Our Defenders, an advocacy group for victims of military sexual assault, told USA Today. “For far too long, the Air Force has operated a two-tier justice system in which senior officers are held to a lower standard than the men and women they lead. Hopefully, this is a sign that the Air Force is finally recognizing the corrosive effect on good order and discipline when general officers are allowed to evade accountability for their criminal acts.”
Cooley was relieved of duty and has been performing administrative work under Gen. Arnold Bunch at Air Force Materiel Command since January, the Air Force said.
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