May 9 (Bloomberg) -- Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Krusinski, the U.S. Air Force’s top officer for sexual assault prevention, had a trial set for July 18 at his first court appearance on a charge of groping a woman in a suburban Virginia parking lot.
Krusinski, dressed in civilian clothes, didn’t enter a plea to the misdemeanor charge at his arraignment today in county court in Arlington, Virginia. His attorney, Sheryl Shane, asked Judge Richard McCue to schedule a trial for September, saying she needed time to interview witnesses and collect evidence.
“I’m not going to set it that far out,” McCue replied.
Krusinski’s case comes amid a rising furor in Congress and the administration over whether the military is doing enough to protect personnel from sexual violence.
Two days after his arrest, the Pentagon released a survey finding that sexual assaults had increased 35 percent over the past two years.
The Air Force also is contending with the fallout from a scandal involving the convictions of at least five military instructors for sexual assaults or unprofessional relationships with trainees or students at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.
In addition, two Air Force generals have come under scrutiny recently by lawmakers for overturning jury convictions in sexual-assault cases.
President Barack Obama on May 7 vowed to “exponentially step up our game” to combat military sexual assaults.
Krusinski, 41, was arrested in the Washington suburb of Arlington on May 5 after he allegedly “approached a female victim in a parking lot and grabbed her breasts and buttocks,” according to an Arlington County police statement.
The incident occurred at 12:35 a.m. and Krusinski was drunk at the time, according to the statement.
He was released on $5,000 bail. If convicted, he faces a possible fine of $2,500 and 12 months in jail.
Krusinski didn’t speak during his brief court appearance except to acknowledge that he understood the charges against him.
After the hearing, he made his way through a gauntlet of reporters, photographers and videographers, silent and staring straight ahead. He entered a waiting car accompanied by Shane and was driven away.
Krusinski had been branch chief for the sexual-assault prevention and response office since February. He was removed from that job pending an investigation of the incident, according to an Air Force statement.
On May 7, Arlington County Commonwealth Attorney Theo Stamos declined an Air Force request to shift the case to the military justice system, according to Lieutenant Colonel Laurel Tingley, an Air Force spokeswoman.
Even if Krusinski is tried in a civilian court, he could face disciplinary action by the military, although it would require the approval of the secretary of the Air Force, Tingley said. That would happen “only in the most unusual cases when the ends of justice and discipline can be satisfied in no other way,” Tingley said in an e-mail.
Air Force Secretary Michael Donley told the House Appropriations subcommittee today that he will wait for the civilian process to play out before determining whether further action is warranted.
Krusinski was commissioned in 1994 following graduation from the Air Force Academy and has spent the bulk of his military career in personnel posts including stints at the Pentagon in the Air Force Intelligence Analysis Agency and at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, and MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, 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.
“His record is very good,” said General Mark Welsh, the Air Force chief of staff, when questioned about Krusinski during a Senate hearing on the Air Force budget on May 7, two days after the arrest.
“There is no indication in his professional record or performance or in his current workplace that there’s any type of a problem like this,” Welsh said.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at email@example.com