The Article 32 hearing for Maj. Gen. William Cooley, former head of the Air Force Research Laboratory, on a charge of sexual assault has been rescheduled for Feb. 8, Air Force Materiel Command said Tuesday.
The hearing, which is similar to a civilian grand jury proceeding, was originally set to begin Thursday. If it proceeds to a court-martial, it will be the first time an Air Force general has ever faced such a trial.
AFMC spokesman Derek Kaufman said that coronavirus-related travel restrictions for other cases prompted Cooley’s hearing to be rescheduled.
Cooley is accused of making unwanted sexual advances on a civilian woman, who is not a Defense Department employee, while off-duty in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Aug. 12, 2018. According to a charge sheet in the case, Cooley allegedly kissed the woman on her mouth, without her consent, “with an intent to gratify his sexual desire.”
Cooley was fired from command of the laboratory on Jan. 15, 2020, due to alleged misconduct. The Air Force then said Cooley was under investigation by the Office of Special Investigations.
One charge and three specifications of violating Article 120 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which forbids sexual assault, was preferred against Cooley on Oct. 29 by Lt. Gen. Gene Kirkland, the initial disposition authority in the case.
The Article 32 hearing will be held at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. A senior military judge will review the evidence in the case, and could hear testimony from witnesses, and will then determine if probable cause exists to move forward with the case against Cooley. The officer will also recommend how to dispose of any offenses that are supported by the evidence, the base said in a release.
“Just as in civilian criminal proceedings, Cooley is presumed innocent until proven otherwise by competent legal authority,” AFMC said in the release.
Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.