The William T. Cooley case marks the first court-martial and conviction of a general officer in the 75-year history of the United States Air Force.
On Saturday April 24, a US Air Force major general was found guilty of sexually abusive conduct. As part of this procedure, he faces seven years in prison, could be fired from the Air Force, but could retain his rank, said Derek Kaufman, an army spokesman. An unprecedented case for the country where the trials for sexual offenses of high ranking army officers are rare.
General William T. Cooley is on trial at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, on three counts: forcing his sister-in-law to touch him over his clothes, touching his chest and parts genitals through his clothes, then forcibly kissing him with the intention of satisfying his sexual desire. He was found guilty only of the latter fact. No jury took part in the operation, according to the request of the defendant and the trial took place entirely under the authority of the military judge and colonel Christina M. Jimenez. The general previously commanded the Air Force Research Laboratory and was responsible for managing a $2.5 billion science and technology program, according to the New York Times.
The American media quickly seized on this affair, and for good reason. This is the first court-martial and the first conviction of a general officer in the 75-year history of the US Air Force, authorities said, quoted by the American newspaper.
“The price of peace was my silence»
“Doing what’s right, speaking up, telling the truth, shouldn’t be so hard“said the victim after hearing the verdict. For her, who did not wish to reveal her name (only her relationship with the general), filing a complaint was not without consequences: “the price of peace in my extended family was my silence, and it was too high a price to pay“. In August 2018, during a barbecue, the general had asked his sister-in-law to go for a walk together, having drunk too much. The young woman told the court about the journey, during which he allegedly told her that he was fantasizing “about having sex with her», would have «pressed against the driver’s side window, forcefully kissed and groped through her clothes“, according to the Air Force. In December 2019, she finally decides to file a complaint for sexual assault, accompanied by her spouse.
Four years later, she hopes that the journey, from the complaint to the trial, “does not won’t be as difficult for the next survivor“, she said on Saturday. An opinion shared by his lawyer, Ryan Guilds, who regretted that “every survivor who decides to come forward and make that brave choice» finds himself confronted with a «justice system which will be very difficult“.
A sign of hope?
However, the condemnation of the general represents “a sign of hope, that’s for sureasserted the lawyer. Changes over the past decade have made it easier for victims of sexual misconduct by military personnel to come forward, he said. The US military is particularly singled out for its mismanagement of legal proceedings related to violence and assaults, according to a CBS media survey, which highlighted the inability of leaders to tackle the problem.
The same outlet has obtained a new report from the Pentagon revealing that the military is not following federal law that requires it to provide support to survivors. “In an analysis of nearly 450 military special casualty cases filed between 2018 and 2020, the Department of Defense Inspector General found that 64% did not have properly trained prosecutors assigned to them.“, can we read on the site of the television network. And this figure is 94% for the Air Force.