Two-Star Air Force General Charged with Sexual Assault

Air Force Maj. Gen. William T. Cooley
Maj. Gen. William T. Cooley, then-Air Force Research Laboratory commander, speaks during the FIRST LEGO League Tournament closing ceremony at the Wright State University Nutter Center in Dayton, Ohio, on Feb. 3, 2019. The state competition was sponsored by the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Educational Outreach office. (U.S. Air Force photo by R.J. Oriez)

The U.S. Air Force has brought a charge of sexual assault against a top general, who previously oversaw the service's elite research lab at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

The service announced Tuesday that it had preferred the charge against Maj. Gen. William Cooley, who led the Air Force Research Lab for roughly two and a half years.

Cooley, who was removed from his post in January, was at the time under investigation by the Air Force Office of Special Investigation for alleged misconduct. A secondary investigation into allegations was headed by Lt. Gen. Gene Kirkland, commander of the Air Force Sustainment Center at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma.

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The charge includes three specifications of sexual assault under Article 120 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, according to a release.

According to the specifications, detailed in the charge sheet obtained by, 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 sexual contact, causing the woman to touch his genitalia through his clothing with her hand without her consent and touching her breast and genitalia through her clothing with his hand without her consent.

The service said it will convene an Article 32 preliminary hearing Jan. 27, 2021, during which a military judge will review the charge. It is similar to a preliminary hearing in civilian court and determines whether charges will be brought to trial.

Kirkland preferred the charge, with three specifications, against Cooley on Oct. 29 "after reviewing the facts of the case, including evidence noted in the Air Force Office of Special Investigations Report of Investigation and consulting with legal authorities," the release states.

The charge stems from an off-duty incident that occurred in August 2018 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, officials said.

Cooley allegedly "made unwanted sexual advances by kissing and touching a female victim," who is not a service member or Defense Department employee, the release states.

The Air Force Research Laboratory-New Mexico, part of Kirtland Air Force Base, is headquartered in Albuquerque.

Cooley became the AFRL commander in May 2017, according to his official Air Force biography. Prior to his role in Ohio, Cooley was the program executive for programs and integration at the Missile Defense Agency at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.

Last year, Cooley unveiled the service's S&T 2030 Strategy following a 12-month review to analyze how and where the Air Force could strengthen or foster new relationships with the science community, academic universities and industry partners.

He was removed from his position Jan. 15 by Air Force Materiel Command leader Gen. Arnold Bunch. The command oversees the research lab.

Bunch said his action was "due to a loss of confidence in [Cooley's] ability to lead," AFMC said at the time. Cooley was temporarily reassigned as the special assistant to Bunch while officials looked into the allegations.

"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."

Editor's Note: This story has been updated with details from the charge sheet.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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