ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — An Air Force officer who led the branch’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response unit has been charged with groping a woman in a northern Virginia parking lot, authorities said Monday.
Arlington County Police said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski of Arlington faces a misdemeanor charge of sexual battery following an alleged assault about 12:30 a.m. Sunday in the Crystal City area of the county.
A police report says that the 41-year-old Krusinski was drunk and grabbed a woman’s breast and buttocks. Police say the woman fought him off and called police.
Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck says Krusinski did not know the woman involved.
Susie Doyle, a spokeswoman for the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office, said Krusinski was released Sunday on a $5,000 personal recognizance bond. An arraignment is scheduled for Thursday.
A working phone number for Krusinski could not be found Monday and court records did not list an attorney.
Air Force spokeswoman Natasha Waggoner said Krusinski was removed from his post in the sexual assault unit after the Air Force learned of his arrest. He started in the post in February.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has spoken with Air Force Secretary Michael Donley about the matter and “expressed outrage and disgust over the troubling allegations and emphasized that this matter will be dealt with swiftly and decisively,” Pentagon press secretary George Little said in a statement Monday.
The spokesman said Hagel has been trying to raise the Pentagon’s focus on sexual assault prevention and response, and will soon announce new steps to address “this vile crime.”
“Sexual assault has no place in the United States military,” Little said. “The American people, including our service members, should expect a culture of absolutely no tolerance for this deplorable behavior that violates not only the law, but basic principles of respect, honor, and dignity in our society and its military. Secretary Hagel is firmly committed to upholding the highest standards of behavior in America’s armed forces and will take action to see this through.”
An Air Force website says the “Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program reinforces the Air Force’s commitment to eliminate incidents of sexual assault through awareness and prevention training, education, victim advocacy, response, reporting and accountability.”
The website continues: “Sexual assault is criminal conduct. It falls well short of the standards America expects of its men and women in uniform.”
Krusinski’s arrest comes as the military continues to wrestle with how best to handle reports of sexual assault and other sexual misconduct.
Outrage over an Air Force officer’s decision to overturn a jury’s guilty verdict in a separate sexual assault case has prompted Republicans and Democrats to join forces on ambitious legislation to change the military justice system.
Lawmakers have interpreted Hagel’s recent proposal to essentially strip commanding officers of their ability to reverse criminal convictions of service members as an opening to revise the decades-old Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Congress repeatedly has challenged the military’s lack of resolve in fighting sexual assault in its ranks, an offense considered far more prevalent than the reported cases of 3,192 in 2011, the most recent figure available. Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that because so few victims report the crime, the real number is closer to 19,000 assaults.
Also, the Air Force recently said it had disciplined five former commanders at a Texas base for not reporting problems quickly or taking appropriate action in what has turned into the military branch’s worst sex scandal.
The confirmation came as the 18th military trial in the scandal started Wednesday. A former wing commander, a former group commander and three former squadron commanders, as well as a senior noncommissioned officer, were disciplined last fall after an investigation into instructor sexual misconduct at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, officials said. In some cases, they said, a commander was not informed of problems in a timely manner and at other times a commander didn’t take appropriate action after knowing about a problem.