WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio — An Air Force major general in Ohio was convicted by a military judge of one of three specifications of abusive sexual contact in the first-ever military trial of an Air Force general.
The charge Maj. Gen. William Cooley faced during a week-long court-martial at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio had three specifications, one alleging forced kissing and two alleging forcible contact in 2018. Cooley was convicted. on Saturday for forcefully kissing. specification but cleared of the other two.
Officials said the verdict marks the first court-martial and conviction of a general officer in the Air Force’s 75-year history.
Cooley, a former commander of the Air Force Research Laboratory, was charged with abusive sexual contact in an encounter with a woman who gave him a ride after a backyard barbecue in New Mexico nearly four years ago. Authorities said the woman is a civilian who is not an employee of the Department of Defense.
Cooley was due to be sentenced Monday morning and could face up to seven years in prison, as well as loss of rank, salary and benefits.
Cooley had the option of a trial by court jurors or by a military judge, choosing to have the judge hear the case.
“Today marks the first time an Air Force general officer has been held accountable for his heinous actions,” the woman’s attorney, Ryan Guilds, said in a statement, the Dayton Daily News reported. “…Hopefully, this won’t be as difficult for the next survivor.”
Cooley was fired from his research lab position in January 2020 after an Air Force investigation and has worked in an administrative position ever since. A message seeking comment was left for his attorney on Saturday.
“This case clearly demonstrates the commitment of Air Force leaders to thoroughly investigate the facts and hold Airmen of any rank accountable for their actions when they fail to meet Air Force standards,” said Colonel Eric Mejía, Judge advocate for the Air Force Materiel Command, said in a statement.