For the first time: a court-martial sanctions a high-ranking Air Force officer for sexual contact

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Major General William T. Cooley.

Photo: US Air Force, Public domain / Wikimedia Commons

A senior US Air Force officer was found guilty of abusive sexual contact in military court in Ohio on Saturday.marking the first court-martial trial and conviction of a general in the history of that military branch, the Air Force said in a statement.

Major General William T. Cooley was found guilty of one of three sexual assault specs related to a 2018 incident in New Mexico, according to the Air Force.

Cooley was charged with abusive sexual contact in an encounter with a woman who drove him after a backyard barbecue in New Mexico nearly four years ago. Authorities said the woman is a civilian who is not an employee of the Department of Defense.

Cooley will be sentenced on Monday and could face up to seven years in prison. as well as loss of rank, salary and benefits

A senior military judge found him guilty of “the first specification, ‘kissing (the victim) on the lips and tongue, with the intention of satisfying her sexual desire,'” the statement said. The judge found Cooley not guilty on the other two specifications.

Cooley had pleaded not guilty.

According to the Air Force statement, the unidentified victim said in court testimony that “Cooley asked for a ride after a day-long social event in the backyard.”

He continued, “During the short trip, she said that he told her that he fantasized about having sex with her. She alleged that he pressed her against the driver’s side window, forcibly kissed her and touched her through her” clothes.

The Air Force does not name victims of sexual assault, but the victim agreed to allow news organizations to reveal her relationship to Cooley without naming her.

Authorities said the verdict marks the first court-martial trial to convict a general-ranking officer in the Air Force’s 75-year history.

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