Former AFRL commander’s mother takes stand in fourth day of court-martial


Thomas Gnau

Springfield News-Sun, Ohio

Apr. 21—The mother of Air Force Maj. Gen. William Cooley today testified during her son’s court-martial at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base that her son told her in 2018 that he had “made a pass” at his sister-in-law.

“That’s what I recall,” testified the mother, Eleanor Cooley, adding later in her time on the witness stand: “He said there was some cussing, and he had made a pass at” his sister in law.

Cooley’s defense team declined to immediately question Cooley’s mother, and also declined to question Cooley’s niece — the daughter of his sister-in-law — after she was briefly questioned by government attorneys.

Also Thursday, David Hardy, a former associate undersecretary of the Air Force, testified that the sister-in-law of Cooley told him that after a car ride in August 2018, Cooley “had attempted to kiss her, pushed her against the door of a car and she had to forcefully push him away.”

“She appeared to be upset,” Hardy said of the sister-in-law’s demeanor when she recalled the encounter at a Sunday brunch two weeks after the events in question.

“Repeating a lie doesn’t make it any more true,” Maj. Shea Hoxie, an Air Force defense attorney for Cooley, told the military judge when he objected to Hardy testifying to what Cooley’s sister-in-law told him.

The judge overruled the objection.

David Martin, Hardy’s husband, was present at the same brunch and testified that he heard the same account.

“She was incredibly upset, teary, incredibly shaken, I would say shell-shocked,” Martin said.

Cooley, former commander of Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), is accused of abusive sexual contact in an encounter with his sister-in-law, inside a Jeep after she gave him an evening ride after a family barbecue, in a New Mexico off-duty incident.

The complainant in the case, the wife of Cooley’s brother, is a civilian woman who is not a Department of Defense employee. Cooley’s brother works for AFRL in New Mexico. The Dayton Daily News does not identify victims of sexual crimes.

The charge of abusive sexual contact has three specifications involving how the two-star general is alleged to have touched the complainant — forcing his tongue in her mouth, forcing her hand to his genitals and pushing his hand between her legs and cupping her breast, according to an Air Force charge sheet.

This is the first court-martial of an Air Force general officer to reach trial. Thursday was the military trial’s fourth day at Wright-Patterson.

A jury has not been empaneled in the case. If convicted by the judge, an Air Force colonel, Cooley faces dismissal from the service, loss of rank, pay and benefits and up to 21 years of confinement.

The first two days of testimony focused on two key witnesses, Cooley’s brother and sister-in-law. Thursday’s pace was faster, with six witnesses testifying before noon.

Much of this morning was consumed with arguments over whether to admit as evidence recordings of Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI) interviews with Cooley’s brother and sister-in-law.


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