Air Force officer acquitted of groping Virginia woman

ARLINGTON, Va. — After hearing two days of testimony, a Virginia jury deliberated for slightly more than an hour before acquitting Air Force Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, 42, on one count of assault and battery against a 23-year-old woman who had accused him of drunkenly groping her outside a bar in May.

If he had been convicted of the Class 1 misdemeanor, Krusinski, who lost his job as the head of the Air Force’s sexual assault prevention and response office, faced up to 12 months in jail and a fine of $2,500.  He was reassigned to a job unrelated to sexual assault as the Air Force awaited the results of the trial.

Krusinski left the courtroom with friends and family members and did not respond to media questions about the trial's outcome. Air Force officials were not immediately available for comment after the verdict, which came at around 5 p.m. Wednesday.

The arrest drew intense scrutiny because of Krusinski’s position and that it came so soon after an Air Force 3-star general had thrown out the conviction of another Air Force officer in a sexual assault case, and proved to some that the military wasn’t taking such cases seriously.

For months, lawmakers have pointed to Krusinski’s arrest and a series of other sex-related military crimes as proof that the Defense Department cannot effectively prosecute sexual assaults or tend to victims’ needs.

Krusinski was initially charged with sexual battery in the incident, but Virginia prosecutors in July revised the charge to regular assault and battery, saying the sexual crime requires additional proof of sexual intent. A grand jury indicted Krusinski in August.

Jury forewoman Alison Kutchma, from Falls Church, Va., said the jury had sympathy for the woman, but felt the evidence simply did not prove the charges.

“It’s very clear that a lot of lives were impacted,” Kutchma said. “But that’s not what we were asked to look at.”

Kutchma said she didn’t want to discuss specific weaknesses of the case, fearing it might be hurtful to the accuser. Prosecutor Cari Steele said the accuser was relieved the case was over.

In closing arguments, Krusinski’s defense attorney, Barry Coburn, had reeled off a litany of what he said were inconsistencies in the testimony of state witnesses. He focused particularly on testimony from the alleged victim about her response to Krusinski’s alleged grope.

On Tuesday the woman said she had hit Krusinski three times with her fist to defend herself. But a number of other witnesses said she followed and repeatedly hit a passive Krusinski with her phone, apparently causing profuse bleeding.

Coburn also had suggested that that Krusinski’s staggering, drunken condition could have resulted in incidental contact that the woman misinterpreted.

Steele had said that what happened after the alleged assault is not the issue.

“There is no doubt that he touched her and there is no doubt she didn’t like it,” Steele said. “She felt totally violated.”

Twitter: @ChrisCarroll_

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