No jail time for Air Force general convicted of sex crime

By Sheena Elzie Dayton

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio — In a first-of-its-kind case, an Air Force general convicted of a sex crime will not have to go to jail for it.

The court found Cooley guilty for forceful kissing, which was one of three specifications of an abusive sexual contact charge Cooley had been accused of.

Spectrum News 1 is not naming the victim, but the victim's lawyer spoke out.

“At the end of the day, her victory really isn’t a victory. She will continue to have the pains of this for the rest of her life, and no sentence is going to eliminate that. No sentence is going to replace what happened,” said Ryan Guilds, the victim's attorney.

During sentencing, she told the court in 2018 he “targeted me, isolated me and attacked me.”

Prosecutors argued Cooley should lose his job and get jail time for it, regardless of his high-ranking position.

“I don’t think anyone would accuse us of being afraid of his rank or his status in prosecuting this case,” said Prosecutor Lt. Col. Matthew Neil.

Cooley told the court he went to counseling and has taken “actions to make himself a better human being.” Cooley's charge is a felony offense, but his attorneys asked the judge to consider reducing his sentence in part because of a change in the law that would have made the offense a misdemeanor if it had happened months later. His defense attorneys argued for a letter of reprimand.

“A letter of reprimand could have severe implications in terms of retirement. He could be retired at a lower grade,” said Defense Attorney Daniel Conway.

The judge agreed. Cooley will not get jail time, but a letter of reprimand with a $55,000 fine tacked on. The judge said he'll have to pay close to $11,000 each month until the total is reached.

It's the first-time charges against an Air Force general reached this point.

“I think there is a sense of closure there is a sense of relief, and there’s some desire to repair those relationships,” said Conway.

“What I think it says to survivors of sexual assault is that they could feel safe to come forward and report what happened,” said Neil.

This might not be over for Cooley. His defense attorney said he expects Cooley will still have to register as a sex offender because of this conviction and sentence, but he said they plan to file an appeal.