Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, who led the Air Force's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response unit, is surrounded by members of the media while leaving the Arlington County General District Court on July 18 in Arlington, Va. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP)
Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, the former chief of the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Unit who is accused of groping a woman outside a Virginia bar, pleaded not guilty to charges of assault and battery Tuesday.
The plea came shortly before the alleged victim, a 23-year-old Treasury Department employee, testified that Krusinski firmly grabbed her buttocks and said, “Did you like it?”
“You’re going to hear that she didn’t like it and responded by hitting the defendant repeatedly,” prosecutor Cari Steele said in her opening statement.
Krusinski, 42, initially faced charges of sexual battery stemming from the May 5 incident, but prosecutors decided to move forward with charges of misdemeanor assault and battery.
In about three hours of testimony, witnesses testified that Krusinski groped two employees of a nearby bar before grabbing the alleged victim. The woman said she responded by catching up to him and hitting him several times in the face.
“I took steps to confront him, and asked, ‘What do you think you are doing?’” she said. “He was taunting me, his hand was too close to my chest.”
She said she began to hit him with her right hand, with her cell phone in her left hand. Testimony varied on how many times Krusinski was hit. The woman said she hit him about three times, while one of the bar employees testified to seeing Krusinski sustain about 15 seconds of constant punches. Witnesses also provided different statements on whether the alleged victim hit Krusinkski with her right hand or her left hand, in which she held her cell phone.
Krusinski reportedly kept his hands behind his head and eventually began to walk away, the bar employee said. “He looked apologetic. ... It’s unfortunate, but you just don’t do that.”
The employee, who is transsexual, said Krusinski grabbed her buttocks with both hands, acknowledged that they were both male and said, “It’s OK. You can come home with me.”
Friends of the alleged victim followed Krusinski and called 911. A local police officer who stopped him testified that Krusinski was staggering and smelled of alcohol.
Krusinski’s arrest in Arlington, Va., sparked outrage among members of Congress already concerned that the military was not properly handling sexual assault cases. Krusinksi was immediately removed from his position with the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Unit.
All of the witnesses who testified Tuesday were called by the prosecution. Defense attorney Barry Coburn refused to answer questions about the case while it is underway. The defense is expected to call several witnesses during the trial, which will last until at least Thursday. More than 20 witnesses are scheduled to testify.
“Evidence will show that this is not about scandals, or about the military,” Coburn said in his opening statement. “It’s about these simple things: facts and the law. ... Evidence will show that the lieutenant colonel had an extremely strong incentive not to commit an act that would cost him his career.”