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Trial begins for Air Force officer from Ohio charged with groping woman

Minutes before he allegedly groped a 23-year-old Treasury Department female employee outside an Arlington, Va., bar, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski reportedly touched two other people on their buttocks in May, according to witnesses.

The testimony came during the first day of a jury trial for Krusinski, a Fairfield native who at the time of the incident was the head of the Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office. He is charged with misdemeanor assault and battery, a charge punishable by up to $2,500 in fines, up to a year in prison, or both. He has been relieved of his position pending the investigation.

But the testimony came with a stern warning from Judge William T. Newman, Jr., who is presiding over the case in Arlington County Circuit Court: One groping does not another grope make. “One thing does not necessarily mean he did the other,” Newman warned the seven-member jury.

The testimony came from a server at Freddie’s Beach Bar in Arlington, The server, a man who dresses as and identifies as a woman, testified that she was standing outside the bar on May 5 when a drunk man — Krusinski — approached her and other bar employees to ask for a cigarette. Krusinski reportedly touched the buttocks of a first female server, who walked back into the bar. He then went over to the server, propositioned her and hugged her, grabbing Coleman’s rear end.

“I laughed it off,” the server said, describing Krusinski as “a very friendly drunk.”

Seconds later, the server looked over to see Krusinski touch the victim on the buttocks. The victim responded, the server said, by beating Coleman with her cell phone.

“She defended herself,” the server said.

The victim, meanwhile, testified that she had been talking on the phone when she was approached from behind. Krusinski, she said, “grabbed my rear end and asked me if I liked it.”

She said she took steps away from him and confronted him, and testified that he taunted her and appeared like he was about to grab her chest. “I punched him in the face,” she said, saying she did not hit him with her cell phone.

Defense attorney Barry Coburn sought to make inconsistencies like these — whether or not the victim hit Krusinski with her cell phone — the key to his defense. As evidence, Coburn submitted Krusinski’s police shot to demonstrate that the victim struck him. He predicted that the evidence in the case would be “so rife, so full of inconsistencies,” that it would be impossible to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Prosecutors originally sought to charge Krusinski with sexual battery, but later opted instead to pursue a charge of assault and battery. His case has been highlighted as an example of the military’s struggles with sexual assault within its ranks.

A Pentagon report concluded the number of sexual assaults reported by service members rose from 3,192 in 2011 to 3,374 in 2012. The Defense Department estimates that as many as 26,000 service members were assaulted based on anonymous surveys, however, up from an estimated 19,000 in 2011.

Attorneys for both the prosecution and for Krusinski’s defense spent much of Tuesday morning convening the jury, many which reported conflicts of interest that might affect their ability to weigh in fairly on the case. At one point, Newman recessed to determine whether they’d have to bring in more jurors. In the end, they found a jury – plus one alternate – out of the original 24 called.

The trial could last through Thursday, according to attorneys on both sides, with up to 25 witnesses prepared to testify in the case.

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