An Air Force judge has postponed the court-martial of Maj. Gen. Bill Cooley, the former Air Force Research Laboratory commander accused of sexual assault, until mid-April amid an explosion in coronavirus cases, the service said Thursday.
The military trial was slated to begin Jan. 10 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, where Cooley works. It’s now scheduled to start April 18 and could last up to two weeks.
Cooley is accused of making unwanted sexual advances toward a civilian woman, specifically kissing and groping her through her clothes while off duty in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in August 2018. The two-star general also faces allegations that he made the woman touch him sexually through his clothing without her consent. The woman is not a military employee.
Cooley has denied that he and the woman touched each other, other than the kiss.
Cooley lost his job at AFRL on Jan. 15, 2020, after nearly three years in the post, following an Air Force Office of Special Investigations inquiry into the misconduct allegations. He then became a special assistant to Air Force Materiel Command boss Gen. Arnold Bunch, handling the Air Force’s technology innovation efforts.
Court-martials involving general officers are rare. The case marks the first time the Air Force has opted to prosecute a general officer on a sexual assault charge. Jury members will be picked from a pool of officers representing the highest echelons of the Air Force, including three- and four-star generals as well as two-star generals who have held the rank longer than Cooley.
Rachel Cohen is the editor of Air Force Times. She joined the publication as its senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Frederick News-Post (Md.), Air and Space Forces Magazine, Inside Defense, Inside Health Policy and elsewhere.