The charge of abusive sexual contact had three specifications involving how the two-star general was alleged to have touched the complainant — forcing his tongue in her mouth, forcing her hand to his genitals and pushing his hand between her legs and cupping her breast, according to an Air Force charge sheet.
A former commander of Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), Cooley was charged with abusive sexual contact in an encounter with his sister-in-law, inside a Jeep after she gave him a ride after a family backyard barbecue, in a New Mexico off-duty incident nearly four years ago.
The complainant in the case, the wife of Cooley’s brother, is a civilian woman who is not a Department of Defense employee. Cooley’s brother works for the Air Force in New Mexico as a civilian employee.
Cooley faces loss of rank, pay and benefits and up to 21 months of confinement. And he may have to register as a sexual offender.
This is the first time a court-martial of an Air Force general reached trial.
Gen. Arnold Bunch, commander of Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson, fired Cooley from the AFRL job in January 2020 after an Air Force investigation. Cooley has worked as an assistant to Bunch in an administrative job since then.
No jury was empaneled in the trial, which started Monday morning.
After a verdict is rendered, if Cooley is not acquitted, a sentencing phase is expected to begin.