Major General Sentenced for Sexual Misconduct in First-Ever Air Force Conviction

Photo: US Air force [via Military News]

The Facts

  • On Tues., Air Force Major General William Cooley was sentenced to a public reprimand and a five-month dock in pay. He was found guilty of abusive sexual contact on Sat., marking the first-ever sexual misconduct trial and conviction of a general officer in the Air Force's 75-year history.

  • Cooley faced one charge of sexual assault with three specifications: one of forcible kissing and two of forcible touching in a 2018 incident involving his brother's wife.


The Spin

Narrative A

This is a major turning point and a clear indication of a changed system. Cooley's verdict has broken an "impenetrable barrier" that historically protected officers of high rank from facing consequences. The military has shown it's taking a stronger stance on accountability, prevention culture, and victim support.

Narrative B

While this is an important win and a sign of hope for all victims of sexual assault by military personnel, it's just the beginning. It has taken decades and a lot of work to reach a verdict like this. More reform to the justice system is needed to better combat sexual misconduct in the military and achieve justice for victims.

Narrative C

While there has been a huge focus on securing justice for victims of sexual assault in the military, prevention is lagging far behind. The key to ensuring a just system is getting to the root cause of the issue and preventing rather than responding. The fact that sexual harassment only became a military crime in 2022 speaks for itself.


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