Major General William Cooley guilty of one of three charges of sexual contact in first military trial of an Air Force general

An Air Force major general in Ohio has been found guilty by a military judge of one of three specifications of abusive sexual contact in the first military trial of an Air Force general.

The charge against Maj. Gen. William Cooley at the week-long court-martial at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio had three specifications, one alleging forced kissing and two alleging forced touching.

Cooley was found guilty of the first specification but acquitted of the second and third in a decision announced as soon as military court opened on Saturday morning, the Dayton Daily News reported.

A former commander of the Air Force Research Laboratory, Cooley was accused of abusive sexual touching during an encounter with a woman who took him after a backyard barbecue in New Mexico nearly four years ago. Officials 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, pay and benefits.

“Today marks the first time an Air Force general officer has been held accountable for his heinous acts,” the woman’s attorney, Ryan Guilds, said in a statement, the newspaper reported. “…Let’s hope it won’t be so difficult for the next survivor.”

Cooley was fired from his research lab position in January 2020 after an Air Force investigation and has since held an administrative position. A message seeking comment was left for his lawyer on Saturday.

A year-and-a-half-long investigation by “CBS Evening News” anchor and editor Norah O’Donnell and the CBS News Investigative Unit into sexual assaults in the U.S. military revealed the failures of leaders to solve the problem. During the investigation, CBS News spoke with nearly two dozen sexual assault survivors, whistleblowers who worked for the military’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program and families of suicides who say the military grossly mismanaged reports of sexual assault. Then-Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy called the CBS News series of reports “very powerful” and promised that the Army would take action to address sexual assaults within its ranks, and that this effort would be “one of the most comprehensive steps in accountability.” in the history of the army.”

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