The chief of the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response branch was relieved of his duties after being arrested last weekend on charges of sexually assaulting a woman in a Virginia parking lot. It was the latest in a series of embarrassments for the service related to sexual assaults, and came only days after the Air Force concluded its April observance of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
The arrest and charging of Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, 41, of Arlington, Va., for sexual battery prompted Air Force officials to relieve him of his post “pending the outcome of the case,” Lt. Col. Laurel Tingley, an Air Force spokeswoman, said Monday. Arlington County police said they arrested Krusinski after an incident at 12:35 a.m. May 5 in Crystal City, not far from the Pentagon.
“A drunken male subject approached a female victim in a parking lot and grabbed her breasts and buttocks,” the police report of the incident said. “The victim fought the suspect off as he attempted to touch her again and alerted police.”
Krusinski was released later in the day after posting a $5,000 unsecured bond, Arlington County police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck said Monday. A picture taken by police after his arrest portrayed facial injuries. Efforts to reach him on Monday to obtain his comment were unsuccessful.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel's spokesman tweeted on Tuesday morning that Hagel was "outraged, disgusted over arrest of Air Force sexual assault prevention chief on charges of sexual battery."
The arrest followed other incidents that have brought unwanted publicity to the Air Force over sexual assaults and the steps taken by the service to stop it. Congress recently held hearings over how the Air Force reacted when a sexual assault victim came forward two years ago with allegations of misconduct at its Lackland training headquarters near San Antonio, Texas. Instructors were found to have sexually harassed, improperly touched or raped dozens of young female recruits and airmen in what has been called the biggest U.S. military sexual assault scandal in years.
At a House hearing in January, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh III called what happened at Lackland “stunning” with “no justifiable explanation.”
Then on Feb. 26, Air Force Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin sparked controversy by overturning a lieutenant colonel’s conviction by courts martial of aggravated sexual assault of a civilian contractor near Aviano Air Base in Italy. Members of Congress angrily criticized the three-star general’s action and called for changes in the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which allows a commanding officer “the absolute power to disapprove the findings . . . and sentences” stemming from a military court proceeding. The case also prompted a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in March on sexual assaults in the military.
Responding to lawmakers, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel urged Congress last month to eliminate a commander's power to overturn a court martial, except for certain minor offenses, and require a written explanation for any adjustments in sentences.
At the January hearing, General Welsh said the Air Force had received nearly 800 reports of sexual assault last year – a nearly 30 percent increase over the previous year – even as it worked to curb misconduct.
"The Air Force goal for sexual assault is not simply to lower the number. The goal is zero," he said. "It's the only acceptable objective. The impact on every victim, their family, their friends [and] the other people in their unit is heart-wrenching, and attacking this cancer is a full-time job, and we are giving it our full attention."