08 mayo, 2013
Air Force Chief of Sexual-Assault Prevention Arrested on Sexual Battery Charges
In the early hours of Sunday morning, Jeffrey Krusinski, 41, was “arrested and charged with sexual battery,” according to the Arlington, Virginia police department. According to the arrest report, Krusinski drunkenly “approached a female victim in a parking lot and grabbed her breasts and buttocks.”
Until today, Krusinski, a lieutenant colonel, was the chief of the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program. An Air Force spokesman, Maj. Eric Badger, told Danger Room that the Air Force removed Krusinski from his position within the program, “immediately upon learning of the arrest.” (It’s worth mentioning that the Air Force did not initially confirm Krusinski’s arrest when Danger Room spoke to a different spokeswoman, Jennifer Cassidy; and deferred that confirmation to the Arlington police.)
Dustin Sternbeck, a public information officer with the Arlington Police Department, released a mugshot, shown here, to Danger Room. While Sternbeck could not confirm Krusinski’s profession, the man shown in the mugshot looks a lot like Lt. Col. Krusinski, shown in this 2011 video from Afghanistan.
The office Krusinski ran “reinforces the Air Force’s commitment to eliminate incidents of sexual assault through awareness and prevention training, education, victim advocacy, response, reporting and accountability,” according to its website. “The Air Force promotes sensitive care and confidential reporting for victims of sexual assault and accountability for those who commit these crimes.”
According to the police report, Krusinski’s alleged intended victim “fought the suspect off” as he attempted a second groping, and called the police. “Police arrived on scene a short time after the victim reported the incident,” Sternbeck told Danger Room. “He did not resist arrest.” The intended victim was apparently responsible for the wounds visible on Krusinski’s face.
Krusinski was held on a $5,000 unsecured bond. His arrest was first reported by the website ARLnow.
“If these allegations are true, this is one more example on a long list of how fundamentally broken the military justice system and culture are,” emailed Nancy Parrish, the president of Protect Our Defenders, an advocacy group for the survivors of military sexual assault. “The idea that the head of the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office could be arrested for sexual assault indicates the depth of the problem. It’s outrageous.”
Time and again, the Pentagon — and the Air Force in particular — has assured the public that it’s taking its sexual-assault problem seriously. An estimated 19,000 rapes or sexual assaults occur annually in the military, although a fraction ever get reported. “If we don’t take steps to deal with it — if we don’t exercise better leadership to confront it — it’ll get worse,” former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta remarked in September.
Yet it’s often been leaders within the military who carry out the abuse. Air Force instructors at Joint Base Lackland-San Antonio, where the Air Force conducts its training, allegedly sexually assaulted at least 59 cadets and airmen in the worst sexual assault scandal in the service’s history. Some instructors are facing military trials. Yet the Air Force also has shown leniency for its top officers: although Lt. Col. James Wilkerson was convicted by a military court of groping a sleeping woman’s breasts and vagina, the general in charge of the Third Air Force voided Wilkerson’s conviction and returned him to active duty. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) has placed a hold on a promotion for Air Force Lt. Gen. Susan J. Helms after learning Helms overturned the sexual-assault conviction of an Air Force captain.
It’s not just the Air Force. The former deputy commander of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division is facing a military tribunal for sexually abusing multiple women, and threatening their careers if they exposed the abuse.
News of Krusinski’s arrest comes at an inopportune time for the Pentagon. Tomorrow, it’s expected to release an annual report on sexual assault in uniform.
“On the eve of the Pentagon releasing their annual report on the epidemic of sexual assault in the military,” added Brian Purchia, a spokesman for Protect Our Defenders, “these latest allegations for the head of the Air Force’s sexual assault prevention program are sickening. … The reporting, investigation and adjudication of sexual assault must be taken out of the chain of command in 2013.”
“When I saw this it made me literally sick to my stomach,” Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) said in a statement emailed to Danger Room. Speier is the author of a bill that would remove the military chain of command from investigating and prosecuting cases of sexual assault, something advocates believe would remove a conflict of interest that inhibits adequately addressing the extent of the sexual-abuse epidemic. “How many more reasons do we need to take cases of rape and sexual assault out of the chain of command?”
Update, 10:08 p.m.: From a statement just released by Pentagon press secretary George Little: “This evening Secretary Hagel spoke to Air Force Secretary Donley about allegations of misconduct involving an Air Force officer who had been responsible for the service’s sexual assault and prevention efforts and was removed today from his position pending the outcome of an investigation. Secretary Hagel expressed outrage and disgust over the troubling allegations and emphasized that this matter will be dealt with swiftly and decisively. 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.”