Air Force Maj. Gen. William T. Cooley, the former head of the Air Force Research Laboratory, was sentenced Tuesday to a reprimand and forfeiture of $10,910 a month for five months for the sexual assault of his brother’s wife.
Cooley’s sentence was handed down on the eighth day of his historic trial at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, by Col. Christina M. Jimenez, the senior military judge in the case. She is the chief circuit military judge, Air Force Trial Judiciary, Western Circuit, at Travis Air Force Base, California.
The case marked the first time a military court had issued a verdict in a case involving an Air Force general, as well as the first time sexual assault charges had led to criminal prosecution for an official so high in the chain of command.
On Saturday, Jimenez found the two-star guilty of one specification of the charge of abusive sexual contact for forcibly kissing the victim in a car after a barbeque in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Aug. 12, 2018. Cooley was found not guilty of two other specifications of the charge under Article 120 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
He had faced a maximum punishment of dismissal, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, confinement for seven years and a possible spot in the national sex offender database.
The victim agreed to be publicly identified by her relationship to the defendant, but not by name. Air Force Times does not publish the names of sexual assault victims without their permission to protect their privacy. The woman and her husband — an Air Force civilian employee — as well as Cooley’s mother and several other family friends and expert witnesses testified in the trial, which began April 18.
Both the government and defense presented evidence during the sentencing session Monday. Lead trial counsel, Lt. Col. Matthew Neil, offered an unsworn statement of the impact the assault had on the victim and her family.
“Bill robbed me of my safety, objectified me, disrespected me and my family, and forever destroyed all trust I ever had in him,” she said. “I was unable to trust the man my husband considered his closest brother, friend and confidante with my own safety and well-being.”
Though she “hoped and prayed for true contrition and lasting remorse” from her brother-in-law of about 30 years, she said she didn’t feel that she received it.
Cooley apologized Monday to both family and fellow airmen.
“I can honestly say I have come out a better human being than I was in 2018,” Cooley said, according to the Dayton Daily News. “I will work for the rest of my life to be a better person than the one who was portrayed in this trial.”
After court Tuesday, Neil said the sentence Cooley received sent a message.
“If this result influenced just one survivor to know that his or her attacker’s rank or status would not prevent them from being held accountable, that is a win for the United States and the military justice system,” Neil said.
Like all airmen convicted at a court-martial, Cooley will receive an automatic review on appeal.
Rachel Cohen is the editor of Air Force Times. She joined the publication as its senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Frederick News-Post (Md.), Air and Space Forces Magazine, Inside Defense, Inside Health Policy and elsewhere.