WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE — The former commander at the Air Force Research Lab at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base has been charged with sexual assault, the Air Force announced Tuesday.
The Air Force brought a single charge against Maj. Gen. William T. Cooley, after a military investigation “disclosed evidence of misconduct” by the general.
The charge stems from an alleged off-duty incident on Aug. 12, 2018 in Albuquerque, N.M., where Cooley allegedly made unwanted sexual advances by kissing and touching a female victim.
According to Cooley’s charge sheet, obtained by this newspaper, Cooley is accused of kissing the woman on her mouth with his lips and tongue “with an intent to gratify his sexual desire” without her consent. He is also accused of causing the woman to touch his genitalia through his clothing, and touching her breast through her clothes with his hand, all without her consent.
The civilian victim, whose name has not been released, is not a military member or Department of Defense employee.
The Air Force will convene an Article 32 preliminary hearing on Jan. 27, 2021, a proceeding similar to a civilian grand jury. A senior military judge will review the official charge under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), which includes three specifications of sexual assault under Article 120.
Gen. Arnold W. Bunch Jr, commander of Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC), appointed Lt. Gen. Gene Kirkland, commander of the Air Force Sustainment Center at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma, as authority to independently review all available evidence and make an initial disposition decision.
The Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) spearheaded the investigation into Cooley’s misconduct. After reviewing the Report of Investigation by the AFOSI and consulting with legal authorities, Kirkland preferred the UCMJ charge and specifications against Cooley on Oct. 29.
“The presiding officer will review the evidence and may hear witnesses called by the Air Force or the accused to determine if probable cause exists that the accused committed a UCMJ offense. The officer will also provide a recommendation on disposition of any offenses supported by the evidence,” AFMC officials said.
Cooley had previously been the commander of the AFRL at Wright-Patterson from May 2017 until January 2020. On Jan. 15, he was relieved of his command by Bunch. AFMC oversees the AFRL. Cooley was relieved of his duties at the time due to “a loss of confidence in his ability to lead,” according to a statement the Air Force.
“The Air Force takes any misconduct allegation seriously,” Bunch said in January. “I expect our leadership to uphold the highest standards and live up to the Air Force’s core values.”
Cooley has since served as special assistant to Bunch, with duties focused primarily on advancing the command’s digital campaign. Brig. Gen. Evan Dertien served as interim commander of AFRL until June 2020, when Brig. Gen. Heather L. Pringle took command of the laboratory.
Reach London Bishop at (937) 502-4532
or follow @LBishopFDH on Twitter.