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Court martial of Air Force general will not have a jury

Major General William Cooley
Michelle Gigante
/
U.S. Air Force
Maj. Gen. William Cooley, a two-star general and former commander of the Air Force Research Laboratory, is charged with abusive sexual contact.

The historic case is the first court martial of an Air Force general facing sexual misconduct charges.

An Air Force general charged with abusive sexual contact could become the first to have his case adjudicated by a court martial. The trial of Maj. Gen. William Cooley began today at Wright Patterson Air Force Base.

The former commander of the Air Force Research Laboratory requested to be tried by military judge alone, instead of by a jury. In court martials, jurors are senior in military rank to the accused.

Cooley’s attorney Daniel Conway said there is an inherent conflict of interest in the jury pool they could have selected from.

“It’s difficult to pick a jury from a pool of officers whose career progression depends on the approval of a senate that expends significant energy excoriating them about sexual assaults on an annual basis,” he said.

Military judge Col. Christina Jimenez accepted the request and will be determining the verdict in the case.

The case is historic as it is the first court martial of an Air Force general facing charges related to sexual misconduct.

“People should care about this case because it signifies that the Air Force is willing to hold one of its most senior leaders accountable for allegations of sexual misconduct,” said Rachel VanLandingham, a professor at Southwestern Law School and a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel.

“[The Air Force] is finally putting its money where its mouth is because it’s long stated that it takes sexual assault very seriously.”