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Jury finds Krusinski not guilty in groping case

Nov. 13, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Jefferey Krusinski
Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, who led the Air Force's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Unit, leaves the Arlington County General District Court in July in Arlington, Va. On Nov. 13, a jury found Krusinski not guilty of assault and battery charges. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP)
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A jury of five men and two women found the former chief of the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office not guilty of assault and battery related to allegations he groped a woman’s buttocks in Arlington, Va., in May.

Jurors deliberated for about one hour and 15 minutes Wednesday before clearing Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, 42, of the misdemeanor charge. Krusinski was at first expressionless when the verdict was read, but within seconds he was smiling and talking with his attorney. He exited the Arlington County courthouse without commenting on the two-day trial’s verdict.

“I just want to say I love my children,” he said.

Krusinski’s defense attorney, Barry Coburn, said the case “has been a completely devastating experience for Lt. Col. Krusinski.”

Krusinski was accused of groping a 23-year-old woman May 5 outside Freddie’s Beach Bar. The woman, a Treasury Department employee, testified Tuesday that he grabbed her buttocks and asked her if she liked it. She said she responded by catching up to him and hitting him several times in the face.

“I took steps to confront him, and asked, ‘What do you think you are doing?’ ” she said. “He was taunting me, his hand was too close to my chest.”

Krusinski was initially charged with sexual battery, also a misdemeanor. Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos dropped the charge and instead sought an indictment on a charge of assault and battery. Stamos said she amended the charge based on the level of force alleged in the incident.

The defense focused on discrepancies over the number of times the woman hit Krusinski in the face and whether she hit him with the hand that held her cell phone or her other hand. The woman said she hit him three times.

Multiple witnesses who said they saw the altercation testified it was far more than that.

Vaughn Coleman, an employee at Freddies, said she witnessed Krusinski being hit repeatedly for about 15 seconds. Coleman, who is transsexual, also said Krusinski grabbed her earlier that night with both hands and said, “I have a penis, you have a penis. It’s OK. You can come home with me.”

After Coleman saw the woman hit Krusinski, “he looked apologetic.”

Rene Miranda, who was near a window inside Tortoise and Hare Bar, testified he saw the woman punch Krusinski in the face with one hand and then the other. Krusinski just stood there and seemed to nod compliantly, said Miranda, who mistook them for a couple.

“He seemed to not be totally sober or else he would do something,” Miranda said. “You see all kinds of things late at night. But that was odd to me.”

Ray Martin, a bartender at Freddies, testified Wednesday that he saw Krusinski’s face “awash in blood” after a server frantically said a man was bleeding in the back parking lot. Martin called an ambulance because he thought Krusinski needed medical attention.

Todd Walter, an agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, testified he had tried to retrieve surveillance video from Freddies that may have captured part of the incident. Walter said when he viewed the tape he saw what he believed to be the alleged victim high-fiving one of her friends in the back parking lot. But the video, on a three-day loop, was recorded over before it could be taken into evidence.

Krusinski did not take the witness stand.

Prosecutor Cari Steele called the video – and the testimony of those who saw the woman striking Krusinski – irrelevant. She said the discrepancies of the witnesses made sense considering most had been drinking and did not see the incident in its entirety.

“There is no doubt Krusinski grabbed [her] buttocks, squeezed it and asked if she liked it,” Steele said in closing arguments. “There is no doubt he touched her, and there is no doubt that she didn’t like it. She felt totally violated.”

Coburn argued the witnesses gave conflicting testimony and that the alleged victim “grossly understated” the number of times she struck Krusinski. “We know he’d been beaten to the point he was barely recognizable,” he said.

Coburn suggested that if anything transpired between the woman and his client, Krusinski may have stumbled into her because he was so drunk.

“At no point did he do anything aggressive. What does that tell you about his disposition?” Coburn said. “If he had done [what he was accused of], would he have reacted with such passivity to being beaten to a pulp?”

Krusinski’s arrest coincided with a Defense Department report that showed sexual assaults in the military were on the rise. It also fueled criticism from lawmakers already unhappy with the military’s handling of sex crimes in the ranks.

Two days after the arrest, legislators grilled Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh on how a man could be accused of a crime he was supposed to help prevent.

Krusinski was immediately removed from the position of SAPRO chief, which he’d held for only two months. A general was put in charge of the office, which was reorganized in the aftermath of the arrest.

The Air Force had sought to take jurisdiction of the case.

Krusinski could have faced a harsher penalty if convicted in a court-martial of the initial charge of sexual battery, where the maximum sentence is seven years and a dismissal from the service.

The Air Force could still bring charges against Krusinski. A person can be tried in a state and federal court for the same crime.

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