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First-ever court-martialed US military general is sentenced

A gavel sits in the Luke Air Force Base courtroom. (U.S. Air Force/Released)

An Air Force judge today sentenced Maj. Gen. William Cooley to a reprimand and ordered that he forfeit $10,910 of monthly pay for five months.

Cooley, 56, a two-star general and a former commander of Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), was found guilty last week of one specification of abusive sexual contact against his brother’s wife.

After the sentence Tuesday morning, Cooley was spotted hugging a man in Air Force uniform outside the court.

Cooley’s civilian attorney, Dan Conway, said after the sentencing that his client is “very thankful for the judge’s compassion here.”

Conway called the sentence “a very significant sentence,” and he said a letter of reprimand may have implications in terms of the rank at which Cooley will be allowed to retire, if he chooses to retire. But Conway also said that it’s still Cooley’s hope that he may continue serving in the Air Force.

As of now, Cooley retains the rank of major general. Military prosecutor Lt. Col. Matthew Neil believed Gen. Arnold Bunch, commander of Air Force Materiel Command, may write a letter of reprimand against Cooley or direct someone to write that letter.

“If it’s not the whole thing, it’s going to be pretty close,” Conway said when asked what percentage of Cooley’s monthly pay the financial penalty represents.

In an interview, Neil noted that the total financial penalty reaches nearly $55,000. Cooley’s monthly pay is $15,966.

Conway said Cooley’s intent now is to repair relationships with his family and colleagues in the Air Force.

Cooley has maintained his innocence, pleading not guilty and in last year’s Article 32 hearing, reading a letter in open court saying the encounter with his sister-in-law was “consensual.”

Neil said the sentence has been communicated to Cooley’s sister-in-law. He referred questions about her reaction to others.

“I think there is a sense of closure, there is a sense of relief,” Conway said, referring to his client.

Historic verdict issued Saturday

Earlier, the verdict — delivered Saturday at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base — marked the first court-martial trial and conviction of a general officer in the Air Force’s 75-year history.

Military prosecutors had sought as a first choice, Cooley’s dismissal from the Air Force, then alternatively, confinement. Defense counsel Conway told Air Force Judge Col. Christina Jimenez Monday that a letter of reprimand would be appropriate.

The allegations stemmed from an encounter in August 2018, when Cooley’s sister-in-law gave him a ride to his parents’ house after a family backyard barbeque in New Mexico.

The charge had three specifications involving how the two-star general was reported to have touched her — forcing his tongue in her mouth, forcing her hand to his genitals and pushing his hand between her legs and cupping her breast, according to the Air Force.

After five days of a trial at Wright-Patterson, the judge found Cooley guilty of the first specification — “kissing her on the lips and tongue, with an intent to gratify his sexual desire” — while acquitting him of the latter two.

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