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Defense rests in historic court martial at WPAFB after calling no witnesses

Maj. Gen. William Cooley is standing, dressed in his Air Force uniform and speaking in to a mic. Behind him is an American flag.
Keith Lewis/Air Force Research Laboratory
/
Defense Visual Information Distribution Service
Maj. Gen. William Cooley addresses SBIR Pitch Day in 2019 in Dayton. The former commander of the Air Force Research Laboratory is charged with abusive sexual contact.

(Editor's note: this story contains descriptions of sexual violence.)

The verdict in the trial of Maj. Gen. William Cooley could come as soon as Friday. He is the first Air Force general to be court-martialed for charges related to sexual misconduct. The two-star general is charged with abusive sexual contact.

Both the prosecution and the defense rested their cases in quick succession on Thursday, April 21. The defense did so after calling no witnesses.

The accuser in the case is Cooley’s sister-in-law. The alleged incident occurred after a short car drive on August 12, 2018 when Cooley was staying at his brother and sister-in-law’s home in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

On the stand Tuesday the sister-in-law said that Cooley pinned her against the inside of a car door, kissed her and touched her breast and groin over her clothes without her consent.

“Bill Cooley’s assault on me was like an F5 tornado coming into my home without my permission or my knowledge of my consent, just ruining everything in its path,” she said.

Her husband is the general’s brother and a civilian employee with the Air Force. He said he was in shock after his wife told him the next day what had happened.

“I was completely dumbfounded. I did not see this coming” he testified on Wednesday. “How could Bill do this to us? How is this possible that this has happened?”

On Thursday Cooley's mother testified. She said that Cooley told her about the incident approximately a month after it happened.

“I don’t remember the words exactly,” she said. “He said there was some cussing and that he had made a pass at [his sister-in-law].”

The prosecution also called a digital forensics expert, several other friends and a family member of the accuser, and two witnesses who worked with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations on the investigation of Cooley.

The defense rested its case without calling a single witness.

“I think that most of what we hoped to achieve in this case, we were able to achieve on cross-examination,” said Cooley’s attorney Daniel Conway. “We felt very good about where we're at and we're prepared to argue to the military judge [in the closing argument].”

Arnold & Porter attorney Ryan Guilds, the accuser's lawyer, said his client showed amazing courage in coming forward and is motivated to be a role model for other victims of assault.

“My client already sent a message and that's, I think, the most important message. And that message to survivors is, if you stand up, you can be supported,” he said.

But he also said that the message is incomplete until there is a verdict.

Closing arguments are scheduled for Friday, April 22. The judge, Col. Christina Jimenez, will determine the verdict, as the accused elected for a trial by military judge alone instead of a jury trial. The maximum punishment for Cooley if convicted is dismissal from the military, forfeiture of all pay and allowances and 21 years in prison.

While working at the station Leila Goldstein has covered the economic effects of grocery cooperatives, police reform efforts in Dayton and the local impact of the coronavirus pandemic on hiring trends, telehealth and public parks. She also reported Trafficked, a four part series on misinformation and human trafficking in Ohio.