Maj. Gen. Bill Cooley, the former commander of the Air Force research lab who was convicted of abusive sexual touching last spring, will retire as colonel on Thursday, two sources told the Air Force. Strength Times.
Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall elected to demote the two-star general to a field officer following the April 2022 trial, an Air Force Materiel Command spokesman said Tuesday.
“The Department of the Air Force expects its leaders to embody our core values and holds them accountable if they fall short of expectations,” the spokesperson said.
Cooley was charged with three counts of abusive sexual contact under Section 120 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which covers sex-related crimes.
Following a week-long court-martial at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, a military judge found Cooley guilty on one count of forcibly kissing his brother’s wife in a car after a barbecue in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in August 2018.
The woman agreed to be publicly identified by her relationship to the accused, but not by name. Air Force Times does not publish the names of sexual assault victims without their permission to protect their privacy.
The judge found Cooley not guilty on the other two counts. He was sentenced to a reprimand and forfeiture of $54,550.
He had faced a maximum sentence of dismissal, forfeiture of all wages and allowances, detention for seven years and a possible place on the National Sex Offender Database.
The case marked the first time a military tribunal has rendered a verdict in a case involving an Air Force general, as well as the first time sexual assault charges have led to criminal charges against a official so high up in the chain of command.
Because the judge did not order him to leave the Air Force or imprison him for at least six months, Cooley was not allowed to take his case to the service appeals court. Instead, Air Force leadership reviewed the matter to ensure it was being handled fairly, the spokesperson said.
Kendall would consider making the unusual decision of demoting Cooley or allowing him to retain his rank, once he asks to retire, the service told the Air Force Times last year.
Cooley was removed from his position at the research lab in January 2020 after nearly three years on the job. He then became Special Assistant to the Chief of Air Force Materiel Command, managing the Air Force’s technology innovation efforts.
His retirement ends a three-decade military career in the design and acquisition of space and missile defense systems. Cooley also briefly deployed to Afghanistan and earned the Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, and Defense Superior Service Medal.