Court-martial of ex-AFRL commander scheduled at Wright-Patterson

Ex-Air Force Research Lab commander Maj. Gen. William Cooley is charged under Article 120, which concerns sexual assault.
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Ex-Air Force Research Lab commander Maj. Gen. William Cooley is charged under Article 120, which concerns sexual assault.

First time in Air Force history a general has been court-martialed, according to group

The first court-martial of a general officer in the history of the Air Force has been scheduled for Jan. 10 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, according to the Air Force docket.

Ex-Air Force Research Lab commander Maj. Gen. William Cooley is charged under Article 120, which concerns sexual assault. A court-martial is analogous to a civilian trial.

Cooley is charged with kissing and touching a woman without her consent in Albuquerque, N.M., in August 2018, according to the Air Force charge.

A military attorney for Cooley has told the Dayton Daily News there was no unwanted touching and the case should not go to trial.

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Cooley was the commander of the Air Force Research Lab at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base before he was relieved of his duties in January 2020. Cooley is now a special assistant to the AFMC commander at WPAFB with duties primarily focused on advancing the command’s digital campaign, according to the base.

Col. Mark Milam will serve as judge in the case, according to the docket. The trial is scheduled for 12 days.

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“An Air Force general has never been court-martialed,” Don Christensen, a former chief prosecutor for the Air Force and the president of the group Protect Our Defenders, told the Dayton Daily News. “It’s a big deal that they’re doing this.”

Christensen said the culture of the military may be changing after the “me too” movement and after Army Spc. Vanessa Guillén, a Fort Hood soldier who disappeared in April 2020, was found dead in late June 2020. Another soldier fatally shot himself before a federal complaint against him in the case was made public.

Jurors, or court members, in the court-martial must either be officers of higher rank, or equivalent grade but with an earlier date of rank to the accused.

Possible consequences, if Cooley is convicted, include confinement or dismissal, a measure equivalent to a dishonorable discharge, or some combination of the two, Christensen said.

The Dayton Daily News does not publish the name of complainants or accusers in sexual assault cases.

Staff Writer Tom Gnau contributed to this story.