Air Force officer arrests stokes sexual assault outrage

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The lieutenant colonel in charge of the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office was arrested for sexual battery in Arlington, Va. over the weekend. The case comes as the Defense Department is already under fire over its handling of sexual harassment and assault.

According to the Arlington County Police Department’s crime report released Monday, at 12:35 Sunday morning “a drunken male subject approached a female victim in a parking lot and grabbed her breasts and buttocks.”

“The victim fought the suspect off as he attempted to touch her again and alerted police,” the report added.

Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski was arrested and charged with sexual battery for the offense.

The Air Force has removed Krusinski from his post, ABC News reported.

“[Krusinski] was responsible for writing plans and programs that supported victims of sexual assault,” Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek told ABC News in a statement. “He worked on prevention programs for sexual assault.”

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke with Air Force Secretary Michael Donley Monday evening about the incident, Pentagon spokesman George Little said in a statement.

“Secretary Hagel expressed outrage and disgust over the troubling allegations and emphasized that this matter will be dealt with swiftly and decisively.” Little said. “Secretary Hagel has been directing the department’s leaders to elevate their focus on sexual assault prevention and response, and he will soon announce next steps in our ongoing efforts to combat this vile crime.”

Lawmakers also expressed their frustration at the news.

“More clear than ever that we must reform how the military handles sexual assault cases & take on the culture that perpetuates this behavior,” New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand tweeted Monday.

Gillibrand added that she plans to introduce legislation next week aimed at reforming how the military deals with sexual assault and other violent crimes.

California Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier, who introduced legislation in April aimed at confronting sexual assault in the military, said she felt ill over the news, Stars and Stripes reports.

“How many more reasons do we need to take cases of rape and sexual assault out of the chain of command?” Speier told the armed forces newspaper.

The allegations come as the Air Force deals with other high profile sexual assault cases. Lt. Gen. Susan J. Helms’ nomination to serve as vice commander of the U.S. Space Command has been put on hold in recent days by Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, after Helms overturned an aggravated sexual assault conviction at a California Air Force Base, the Washington Post reported today.

In another prominent public case Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin overturned a sentence in a sexual assault case and reinstated the convicted fighter pilot, Lt. Col. James Wilkerson, to the Air Force. The decision prompted such an outcry that Franklin in March took the unusual step of releasing a detailed six-page letter [pdf] explaining his decision.

NBC News reports that Tuesday the Pentagon will release its annual report on sexual assaults in the military, which is expected to show an increase in sexual assaults.

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