“An Air Force general has never been court-martialed,” Christensen said. “It’s a big deal that they’re doing this.”
“What it tells me is that the investigation has shown that the evidence is really strong, that he committed this offense,” he added.
Ten to fifteen years ago, a case like this might have resulted in a senior officer being encouraged to retire and leave the Air Force, Christensen said. In today’s landscape, the Air Force is compelled to take these allegations seriously, he said.
“I think it’s a combination,” he said. “I think the evidence must be strong, and I think in today’s cultural environment — especially after Vanessa Guillén’s murder, and the ‘me too’ movement, finally made its way to the military — I think they can no longer discount strong evidence just because someone is a senior officer.”
Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen was a Fort Hood soldier who disappeared in April. Her remains were found in late June and another soldier fatally shot himself before a federal complaint against him in the case was made public.
Attorney Dan Conway, who represents Cooley, told the Dayton Daily News that OSI recovered voice mail recordings from Cooley’s accuser that he believes supports his client’s case. Conway says the voice mails indicate that the accuser was “stunned but flattered by what happened," by what Conway and Cooley say was a consensual kiss earlier that evening.
According to the Air Force charge, the alleged kiss happened in Albuquerque, N.M. in August 2018.
Conway said there was no unwanted touching. This matter should not go to a court martial, or the military equivalent of a trial, he said.
“This is not the case to seek precedent on, because the evidence is so weak,” he said.
Ryan Guilds, who is counsel for the accuser, issued a statement saying: "The victim does not intend to try this case in the media. She knows what happened, what the accused did, and she looks forward to seeing the truth come out. Make no mistake, it is not easy for a victim to come forward and face immediate character assassinations in the press from the defendant’s high-priced lawyer. But she is strong, and in the end the truth will confirm her bravery and the righteousness of her actions.”
The Dayton Daily News does not publish the name of complainants or accusers in sexual assault cases.
Cooley has cooperated with OSI “completely," Conway said.
“The evidence in the OSI investigation is very clear that this was a consensual kiss and nothing more," he said.
“There is a reason that general officers have not historically been charged,” Conway added. “Because for decades of their career, they’re screened for their high character. General-grade officers are confirmed by the Senate. These people who are confirmed general-grade officers are cut from the finest cloth.”
Conway said he doesn’t believe Cooley is working at Wright-Patterson at the moment. Since his firing, Cooley has served as special assistant to AFMC Commander Gen. Arnold Bunch, with duties focused on advancing the command’s digital campaign, the command said.
Both AFRL and AFMC are based at Wright-Patterson.