The victim in the case, the wife of Cooley’s brother, is a female civilian who is not an employee of the Department of Defense. Cooley’s brother works for the Air Force in New Mexico as a civilian employee.
Cooley had faced loss of rank, pay and benefits and up to 21 months in confinement. And she may have to register as a sex offender.
Now, after Saturday’s verdict, in terms of imprisonment, the maximum possible sentence is seven years per charge. An Air Force spokeswoman said Saturday that Cooley is not facing loss of rank. It was not immediately clear Saturday what impact the conviction will have on Cooley’s career.
This is the first time that a court-martial of an Air Force general has gone to trial.
“Today marks the first time an Air Force general officer has been held accountable for his heinous actions,” the victim in the case said in a statement from his personal attorney, Ryan Guilds.
“Sometimes relatives are the abusers, abusers who rely on silence to exercise their vast power.”
Cooley’s sister-in-law cited Vanessa Guillen, an Army soldier who was killed by a fellow soldier in 2020 while stationed in Ford Hood, Texas, as an inspiration for her to press charges.
“Hopefully,” Guilds said, continuing his client’s statement, “this won’t be as difficult for the next survivor.”
Speaking for himself, Guilds said: “At the end of the day, he (Cooley) was found guilty.”
“If that can be done for her, it can be done for others. That doesn’t mean it’s easy,” she added.
Cooley has worked as an assistant to Gen. Arnold Bunch, commander of Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC), in an AFMC administrative job since an Air Force investigation into the charges against him in late 2019 and early 2019. 2020. His brother and sister-father-in-law took the matter to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations in December 2019. Bunch fired Cooley from his AFRL job in January 2020.
No jury was formed at the trial, which began on April 18. The sentencing phase begins Monday morning at the base.
“Whatever the sentence is, it doesn’t erase what happens,” Guilds said.
“I implicitly trust our military court system and respect the judge’s decision,” Bunch said in a statement Saturday. “As an institution, we are committed to holding all Airmen, regardless of rank, accountable when their actions fail to meet Air Force standards.
“This entire process has demonstrated the Air Force’s commitment to preventing sexual assault, protecting victims and taking appropriate action against perpetrators when it occurs. The trial was impartial, fair and transparent. I thank everyone who supported this process for their due diligence in seeking justice and doing everything possible to protect both the rights of the victim and the rights of the accused to a fair trial.”
The Dayton Daily News does not name sex crime victims.
Don Christensen, a former Air Force chief prosecutor and head of the organization Protect Our Defenders, believes this likely marks the effective end of Cooley’s Air Force career. Christensen expects that a commander will begin to initiate a download process at some point in the future.
Officers cannot be reduced in rank on a court-martial sentence, Christensen said. But he said the secretary of the Air Force can reduce Cooley’s rank one star, to brigadier general.
And while the sentence could impose a dismissal from the Air Force, depriving Cooley of his salary and benefits, Christensen said Saturday that he would be surprised if the judge went that route.
“When they’ve had a long career like this, you don’t usually see a punitive firing,” he said.
Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall may deny Cooley’s retirement benefits, Christensen said.