General’s brother describes shock during ex-AFRL commander’s court-martial

A member of the local media records U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. William T. Cooley, Air Force Research Laboratory commander, deliver remarks during a press conference inside the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, April 18, 2019. Gen. Cooley spoke on AFRL’s efforts to work with small businesses, and universities in an effort to focus on speed when it comes to the science and technology strategy as unveiled by Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson. (U.S. Air Force photo by Wesley Farnsworth)

Thomas Gnau

Springfield News-Sun, Ohio

A brother of Air Force Maj. Gen. William Cooley testified in military court Wednesday, describing his reaction when his wife, Cooley’s sister-in-law, told him that the two-star general had physically forced himself against her.

Cooley’s brother testified that in August 2018 his wife told him that Cooley “had pushed her against the car door, had pushed his tongue down her throat and grabbed for her breasts and said some things that were very hurtful to me.”

“I did not see this coming,” the brother said during the third day of the case. “I was thinking, how could Bill do this to us? How is it possible that this could have happened?”

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 the charges.

Cooley has pleaded not guilty.

Cooley’s brother testified he was at no point angry with his wife, but he later told the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI) that “part of my reaction was, what did you (his wife) do to bring this on?”

“I note that I did not say that to her,” the brother testified Wednesday. ” I was trying to grasp for any possible explanation for why my … brother had done this to us.”

Asked why he didn’t immediately report the incident to law enforcement, the brother said. “Because he was my … brother, and I love him, and I did not want to be here.”

Asked why he reported the incident to the Air Force in December 2019, Cooley’s brother said he did not want to, but he felt Cooley had not taken responsibility for his deeds.

“I didn’t see any other path out,” the brother testified.

A jury was not 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.

On redirect questioning, government attorneys sought to banish any notion that Cooley had not pulled his sister-in-law’s hand toward his groin during their Jeep ride. The government team replayed part of a December 2019 OSI interview of Cooley’s sister-in-law.

Asked what she meant to convey by her physical motions during the OSI interview, the sister-in-law testified Wednesday: “I was trying to illustrate that … he yanked (her hand) toward his pants, his groin, his middle of his seated area.”

“In that area, upper thigh, inner leg, groin area,” she added.

Cooley’s defense attorney on cross examination tried to focus on what he maintained were inconsistencies in her descriptions of events that evening.

Asked why she was concerned about her husband believing that the kiss between her and Cooley had been consensual, the complainant said: “That is the actual last thing on Earth I would have done, ever.”

The complainant spent about five hours testifying over two days. Asked if she told the truth, she said: “Absolutely, every word.”

The court-martial is scheduled to continue Thursday.


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