Ex-Air Force Sex-Assault Watchdog in Court in Grope Case

The former head of the U.S. Air Force’s office of sexual-assault prevention is headed to court after being accused of groping a woman in a parking lot near the Pentagon, as lawmakers review how the military addresses allegations of sexual violence in its ranks.

Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Krusinski, 41, is scheduled to appear tomorrow in Arlington County General District Court. He was arrested May 5 in Arlington, a Washington suburb, after he allegedly approached a woman “and grabbed her breasts and buttocks,” according to a county police statement. The incident occurred at 12:35 a.m. and Krusinski was drunk, police said.

Krusinski, who is free on bail, was charged with one count of sexual battery. Prosecutors are expected to ask the judge to dismiss that charge and seek to indict Krusinski for assault and battery, according to a person close to the investigation. That charge more closely tracks the allegations, according to the person, who asked not to be identified because the matter isn’t public yet.

Krusinski would face a fine of $2,500 and sentence of as long as a year in jail for a sexual battery conviction and would face similar penalties for an assault-and-battery count. Both charges are misdemeanors. Krusinski didn’t enter a plea during his initial court appearance on May 9.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos declined to comment on the case.

‘Looking Forward’

“We’re looking forward to addressing the matter in the courtroom, Krusinski’s lawyer, Barry Coburn, said in a phone interview.

“Once the civilian trial is complete, we will separately assess the facts and evidence in the case and determine if there are applicable disciplinary or administrative actions that are appropriate,” Lieutenant Colonel Laurel Tingley, an Air Force spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement. She declined to comment further on the case.

Krusinski’s arrest, which stoked anger in Congress and the Obama administration, happened two days before the Defense Department released a survey reporting that there were about 26,000 cases of unwanted sexual contact in the military in 2012, a 35 percent increase from two years earlier. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has called the assaults a “blight” and a “scourge” on the armed forces.

A push by U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, to remove the military chain of command from decisions about whether to prosecute sexual assaults picked up support this week from two of her Republican colleagues, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas.

Branch Chief

Krusinski had been branch chief for the sexual-assault prevention and response office since February. He was removed from the job pending an investigation of the parking-lot incident, the Air Force said at the time of his arrest.

The Air Force has revamped the office, increasing its staff to 31 from four and putting a general in charge. The expanded office began operating June 3 under Major General Margaret Woodward, who reports to the Air Force vice chief of staff, according to an e-mailed statement from Lieutenant Colonel Jill Whitesell, an Air Force spokeswoman.

“The Air Force recognized the need for a more prominent, stand-alone, directorate-level office,” Whitesell said.

Such efforts haven’t mollified Gillibrand, who opposes the practice of letting the military chain of command decide whether sexual assault cases go to trial.

‘No Accountability’

“There is no accountability because the trust that any justice will be served has been irreparably broken under the current system where commanders hold all the cards over whether a case moves forward for prosecution,” Gillibrand said in remarks prepared for delivery at a press conference yesterday.

She and her allies want to shift decision-making about sexual assault and other serious crimes to military prosecutors.

Assault victims “may be deterred from reporting their assault if they have to report it to their boss,” Paul said at yesterday’s press conference.

Krusinski was commissioned in 1994 after his graduation from the Air Force Academy. He has spent the bulk of his military career in personnel posts, including stints at the Pentagon in the Air Force Intelligence Analysis Agency, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, and at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, according to the Air Force office of public affairs.

He deployed to Iraq from November 2009 to May 2010 and to Afghanistan from August 2011 to February 2012, records show.

The case is Virginia v. Krusinski, GC13002001-00, Arlington County General District Court (Arlington, Virginia).

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Zajac in Washington at azajac@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew Dunn at adunn8@bloomberg.net

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