Court-Martial of Two-Star General Enters Closing Arguments

April 22, 2022Noelle Wiehe
defense rested

Maj. Gen. William Cooley faces a court-martial trial, which began April 18, 2022, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, for sexual abuse allegations. Composite by Coffee or Die Magazine.

The defense rested Thursday without presenting a case in the court-martial of Maj. Gen. William Cooley at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The two-star general is accused of abusive sexual contact against his sister-in-law in August 2018. Officials say the case is the first court-martial to reach trial of an active-duty general officer in the Air Force’s history. 

A total of 10 witnesses took the stand in three days of testimony, including Cooley’s sister-in-law and his brother.

The government and defense rested their case and closing arguments concluded Friday.

defense rested
Maj. Gen. William Cooley talks mentorship in a US Air Force video. The general officer faces court-martial this week for the first time the branch has court-martialed a general officer in its 74-year history. Screenshot from US Air Force video.

The defense did not call any witnesses but instead cross-examined each of the prosecution’s witnesses. Neither side disputes the fundamental facts of the case, but while the prosecution alleges that Cooley attacked his sister-in-law, the defense reiterated with each witness its assertion that the brief encounter between the two was consensual.

Coffee or Die Magazine does not identify accusers in sex crimes, but the woman’s lawyer has asked that media members covering the trial refer to her by her relationship with Cooley.

The charges in the court-martial stem from an Aug. 12, 2018, off-duty incident in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where his sister-in-law and brother reside, when prosecutors say Cooley kissed and groped the woman without her consent. 

Cooley’s sister-in-law said Monday that Cooley lunged at her in her car on Aug. 12, 2018, after a barbecue at her home. She said that after making lewd comments during the drive, he pinned her to the driver’s side door while he pressed his mouth to her mouth and put his tongue into her mouth. She said he groped her breast and moved his hand over her pants at her crotch, then grabbed her hand and placed it on his pants at his crotch.

Both the woman and her husband testified they initially decided not to press charges against the Air Force general, but they changed their minds when they did not receive a written acknowledgment and apology. 

court martial
The first flag officer in the US Air Force’s 74-year history faces a trial by court-martial inside Building 10 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. Photo by Noelle Wiehe/Coffee or Die Magazine.

The presiding military judge, Col. Christina Jimenez, decided on day one of the trial that the trial would be decided by her, and not a jury, granting a request made by Cooley’s defense team.

Cooley formerly commanded the Air Force Research Laboratory in Ohio but was reassigned as the special assistant to the commander of the Air Force Materiel Command following the allegations. He was promoted to his current rank a month before the incident, on July 3, 2018. 

The prosecution called several witnesses who were at the barbecue prior to the incident, including Cooley’s mother, a male family friend of the woman, the man’s husband, and Cooley’s niece, who is the accuser’s daughter.

Thursday also saw both sides arguing over whether recordings made by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations would be taken into account by the court. The defense argued that her statement to OSI given soon after the incident did not match statements she made later. Challenged on those points on the stand, Cooley’s sister-in-law repeatedly said she did not recall what she said in the interview.

Read Next: Two-Star Court-Martial, Day 2: Woman Recounts Harrowing Encounter

Noelle Wiehe
Noelle Wiehe

Noelle is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die through a fellowship from Military Veterans in Journalism. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and interned with the US Army Cadet Command. Noelle also worked as a civilian journalist covering several units, including the 75th Ranger Regiment on Fort Benning, before she joined the military as a public affairs specialist.

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