Court-martial of two-star Air Force general begins Monday

Ex-AFRL commander on trial in allegation of sexual assault against civilian woman.

Selection of a jury of two- and three-star generals starts Monday at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in the court-martial of a former Air Force Research Laboratory commander accused of kissing and touching a woman without her consent.

The military trial was set to begin Jan. 10 at Wright-Patterson, where Maj. Gen. WIlliam Cooley worked with the commander of Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC). The trial was continued until Monday, and it’s expected to last up to two weeks, an Air Force spokesman said.

Cooley is accused of making sexual advances toward a civilian woman, kissing and touching her through her clothes while off-duty in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in August 2018.

Jury members must be senior to Cooley in either rank or date of promotion. His attorney, Daniel Conway, said that at one point in preparations for the court-martial, there were some 32 three-star generals in the Air Force — and half of those originally were in the jury pool.

That works out to perhaps several hours of voir dire, or examination of potential jurors, on sexual assault policy, Conway said. Jury selection may take longer than the trial itself, he said.

One potential juror had been the officer President Joe Biden has nominated to be the next commander of AFMC, Lt. Gen. Duke Z. Richardson. Richardson faces a Senate confirmation process before winning his fourth star and the AFMC job.

But Richardson has been excused from the jury pool, according to Conway and an AFMC spokesman.

Cooley was removed from command at AFRL in January 2020 following an Air Force investigation into misconduct allegations. He then became a special assistant to AFMC chief Gen. Arnold Bunch.

The proceeding may be historic, observers have said. The case marks the first time the Air Force has prosecuted a general officer on a sexual assault charge.

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