Two-star Air Force General was found guilty of sexual assault. This marks the first court-martial and conviction for a general officer in the history of the military division’s 74-year-old history.
Maj. Gen. William T. Cooley was ordered Tuesday to pay about $55,000 in fines and will receive a letter of reprimand from the court-martial convening authority, a judge ruled.
The maximum sentence he was facing was seven years imprisonment, separation from military service and loss of pay or benefits. Cooley will lose $10,910 from his monthly salary for five months under the judge’s orders.
Cooley was found guilty on Saturday of forcing his sister-in law to kiss him after a family barbecue. According to the Air Force, Cooley was also acquitted of two other counts for abusive sexual contact. They were related to the accusation of forcing the victim over his clothes and touching her genitals and breasts.
Although she was not identified, the woman did read a statement Monday prior to Cooley’s sentencing, in which she stated that his unwelcome advances had been devastating.
The incident “robbed me of my safety”Cooley also agreed. “disgusting actions unmoored me.”
“The cost to remain a member of our extended family was silence, secrecy and lies, all to protect him and his military position above all costs,”She spoke.
“I trusted Bill, and he took that trust and exploited it, twisted it beyond recognition, marginalized me to others that I care about, lied to family members to cover the truth, and while I hoped and prayed for true contrition and lasting remorse, I don’t feel I ever received that. I became despondent with this reality,”She spoke.
At a barbecue on Aug. 12, 2018, Cooley had been drinking and asked his sister-in-law for a ride home, according to the victim’s statement to Air Force officials. During the ride, the victim said Cooley talked about fantasies of having sex with her and “pressed her up against the driver’s side window, forcibly kissed and groped her through her clothes,” according to the statement.
The woman and her husband reported the assault to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations in 2019, according to the military. In January 2020, Gen. Arnold Bunch Jr. removed Cooley from his job at the Air Force Research Laboratory, where he supervised some 6,000 people. He also oversaw billions of dollars used for research, science and technology programs, according to Cooley’s professional biography.
Through her attorney, the victim said, “Hopefully it won’t be this difficult for the next survivor.” She noted the verdict came two years after Army Spc. Vanessa Guillén was killed, dismembered and burned by a fellow soldier who faced sexual harassment allegations.
“Vanessa Guillén’s spirit has been with me on this journey and while this process has been incredibly invasive not only for me but also my immediate family and closest friends, I know there are countless other people who have been silenced forever, like Vanessa, so staying silent was simply never an option,” she said.
Last month, President Joe Biden signed the latest defense spending bill, which included revisions to how the military handles sexual assault cases. The changes came after increased pressure from Congress and advocates for female service members. Under the National Defense Authorization Act, military commanders will no longer decide whether to prosecute cases involving sexual assault, murder, child pornography, domestic violence, kidnapping, stalking and other serious crimes.
Instead, the decisions will be made outside the chain of command, by independent military prosecutors. The new rules must be enacted within two years, the act says.
Ryan Guilds, the sister-in-law’s attorney, told reporters after the sentencing that his client “She will have to endure the pains for the rest her life. No sentence can change that.” Military.com reported.
“No sentence can replace what happened.” “No sentence is going to override the pain she and her loved ones have experienced, and frankly, the many other people involved with this case have also endured,” he stated.