Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krunsinski arrives at the Arlington County Courthouse on May 9 with his attorney Sheryl Shane to be arraigned on a misdemeaner charge of sexual battery in Arlington, Va. (Thomas Brown/Air Force Times)
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The former chief of the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office accused of grabbing a woman’s breasts and buttocks in an Arlington, Va., parking lot early May 5 made his first court appearance Thursday afternoon.
Lt. Col. Jeff Krusinski faces one count of sexual battery, a misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $2,500 fine.
Krusinski, wearing khaki pants and a dark blazer appeared nervous as he entered the courtroom with his attorney, Sheryl Shane.
He did not enter a plea and spoke only when Judge Richard J. McCue asked if he understood why he was in court.
“Yes, sir,” said Krusinski, who stood with his hands by his side.
McCue set a trial date for July 18, against the objections of Shane, who said she needed more time to prepare because of the “level of public interest” in the case. She also said she planned to hire an investigator.
After the hearing, Krusinski and his attorney slipped into a waiting room guarded by sheriff’s deputies. They reappeared several minutes later. Neither Krusinski nor Shane responded to reporters’ requests for comment. Shane has not returned Air Force Times’ voice and email messages.
Shane told The New York Times that Krusinski planned to plead not guilty. “Every time his name is mentioned, it seems that he’s being blamed for everything in the military,” she was quoted as saying. “This is just a misdemeanor case, not a felony, and a lot of focus is on him. It’s almost like he is a pawn in a chess game.”
The arrest came as an embarrassment to the Air Force, already under fire from lawmakers and victims’ advocates who have accused the service of being lenient on sexual offenders.
In February, Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin overturned the sexual assault conviction of Lt. Col. James Wilkerson, a fighter pilot and former inspector general at Aviano Air Base, Italy. Franklin selected the jury that returned the guilty verdict in the case, and he dismissed the conviction despite a recommendation by his judge advocate that it stand.
Air Force leaders took a battering from members of the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday, the same day the military announced sexual assaults were up in 2012.