Ex-AFRL commander faces sexual assault charge

Maj. Gen. William Cooley, who was removed as Air Force Research Laboratory commander in January this year, gave the keynote presentation at the Air Force Institute of Technology centennial symposium on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in November 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by R.J. Oriez)

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Maj. Gen. William Cooley, who was removed as Air Force Research Laboratory commander in January this year, gave the keynote presentation at the Air Force Institute of Technology centennial symposium on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in November 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by R.J. Oriez)

Maj. Gen. William T. Cooley ‘allegedly made unwanted sexual advances by kissing and touching a female victim’

An Air Force investigation disclosed evidence of misconduct by former Air Force Research Laboratory leader Maj. Gen. William T. Cooley leading to a charge of sexual assault against him, the Air Force said Tuesday.

An Article 32 preliminary hearing will be convened Jan. 27 where a senior military judge will review the charge under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice.

ExploreFrom January 2020: Top ranking AFRL commander at Wright-Patt under investigation, removed from command

The charge stems from an August 2018 off-duty incident in Albuquerque, N.M., where “Cooley allegedly made unwanted sexual advances by kissing and touching a female victim,” AFMC said. “The civilian victim is not a military member or (Department of Defense) employee," according to the command’s description of the allegation against Cooley.

Cooley was relieved of his command at the AFRL in January this year by Gen. Arnold W. Bunch, Jr., commander of Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC).

Both AFRL and AFMC are headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Since then, Cooley has served as special assistant to Bunch, with duties focused primarily on advancing the command’s digital campaign, the command said.

Bunch appointed Lt. Gen. Gene Kirkland, commander of the Air Force Sustainment Center at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, as the authority to independently review all available evidence and make an initial disposition decision.

Kirkland preferred the UCMJ charge and specifications against Cooley Oct. 29 after “reviewing the facts of the case, including evidence noted in the Air Force Office of Special Investigations Report of Investigation and consulting with legal authorities,” AFMC said in its statement.

An Article 32 hearing is a preliminary hearing analogous to a civilian grand jury proceeding with a military judge advocate presiding as the hearing officer.

The presiding officer will review evidence and may hear witnesses called by the Air Force or the accused to determine if probable cause exists that the accused committed a UCMJ offense, as AFMC described the proceeding.

The officer will also provide a recommendation on disposition of any offenses supported by the evidence.

After Cooley’s removal from AFRL command, Brig. Gen. Evan Dertien was appointed AFRL commander. In June this year, Brig. Gen. Heather Pringle assumed official command of AFRL.

The lab is the primary scientific research and development center for the Air Force, with a workforce of about 11,000 employees across the country.

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