WASHINGTON -- An Air Force colonel charged with groping a woman in a drunken incident outside a bar near the Pentagon in May was acquitted by a Virginia jury Wednesday afternoon.
The charges against Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski were notable because he was leading an Air Force program responsible for preventing sexual assault at the time of the alleged attack.
A 23-year-old graduate of American University in Washington testified that she felt violated after Krusinski came up to her outside Freddie’s Beach Bar in Crystal City, Va., and squeezed her buttocks. According to testimony at the trial this week, he was drunk and touched two other women at the bar inappropriately.
Barry Coburn, Krusinski’s lawyer, confirmed the acquittal in a telephone interview and said he was “very gratified” that the jury had agreed there was reasonable doubt of his client’s guilt.
Virginia prosecutors initially charged Krusinski with sexual battery, but reduced the charge to misdemeanor assault and battery in July. Coburn said the woman’s account was inconsistent and suggested Krusinski might have touched her by accident.
According to the Arlington County police report, “On May 5 at 12:35 a.m., 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 Air Force removed Krusinski from his sexual harassment program position after the charges were filed, but he continued to report for duty in another assignment.
The charges were embarrassing to the military because they made headlines as sexual assault within the armed services had become a major political issue.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel "expressed outrage and disgust over the troubling allegations," a Pentagon spokesman said at the time of the incident.
A military spokesman could not be reached immediately to discuss what would happen to Krusinski in light of the acquittal.