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The court martial of a major general in the US Air Force is underway at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, where a judge is weighing evidence against the Albuquerque native to determine if he committed abusive sexual contact against his sister-in-law after a family barbecue in Albuquerque.
Maj. Gen. William Cooley, a graduate of Highland High School, rose through the ranks of the Air Force until he was relieved from duty in January 2020 amid an investigation into misconduct, the Air Force announced at the time. Cooley had been the commander of the Air Force Research Laboratory and was spending the weekend in Albuquerque when the incident occurred. He was in town for a work conference at Kirtland Air Force Base, which is home to AFRL’s Space Vehicles and Directed Energy directorates.
Cooley has pleaded not guilty, and his lawyers have argued what happened between Cooley and his twin brother’s wife was consensual, according to media reports of the court martial. Cooley was twice assigned to Kirtland, most recently as a commander of Phillips Research Site and Material Wing Director, Space Vehicles Directorate, between 2010 and 2013. He earned his master’s degree from the University of New Mexico.
The allegations against him center around the events after a family barbecue in Albuquerque, according to testimony during his court-martial proceeding, which is being covered by the Dayton Daily News and several military-centric outlets.
Maj. Gen. William T. Cooley
According to coverage of the trial, Cooley was drinking bourbon and sangria at a relative’s house in August 2018, when Cooley’s sister-in-law gave Cooley a ride to his parents’ house to pick up luggage.
She tested that during that ride, Cooley touched her hand and told her that he had fantasized about her for years. She said the ride left her “stunned and speechless,” according to coverage of the proceeding.
She said on the stand that when Cooley returned to the vehicle after getting his luggage he grabbed her hand and pulled it toward his groin. He is also accused of pushing his hand between her legs, and kissing her without consent when the pair returned and parked the vehicle in the garage, according to coverage of the proceedings.
The alleged victim’s lawyer requested she be identified only by her relationship to Cooley, according to multiple news outlets covering the court martial.
Cooley is facing three counts of sexual contact: For kissing her without consent; having her touch him without her consent; and touching, through clothing, her breast and groin without consent, according to his charge sheet.
The Air Force Times reports that Cooley is the first Air Force general officer to face a court martial. If convicted, he faces dismissal from the military and up to 21 years in prison.
Since being relieved from duty at AFRL, Cooley has been a special assistant to the commander of Air ForceMatter Command, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, according to the Air Force’s website.