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The man who was supposed to lead the Air Force’s sex assault prevention efforts will stand trial July 18 in Arlington, Va., on a charge of sexual battery.
Lt. Col. Jeff Krusinski allegedly grabbed the breasts and buttocks of a woman he didn’t know near a stretch of Crystal City bars and restaurants just after midnight May 5, according to a police report.
In a booking photo from the Arlington County jail, Krusinski has cuts and bruises on his face. Police said they don’t know he he got them.
Krusinski, 41, made his first court appearance May 9, accompanied by his attorney, Sheryl Shane. Krusinski, dressed in a dark blazer and tie, appeared nervous during the brief hearing. He did not enter a plea and spoke only when General District Court Judge Richard J. McCue asked if he understood why he was in court.
“Yes, sir,” Krusinski answered.
McCue set a July 18 trial date against the objections of Shane, who said she needed more time to prepare due to the “level of public interest” in the case.
If convicted, Krusinski faces up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine. He and his attorney promptly left the courtroom after the minutes-long hearing, slipping into a waiting room guarded by sheriff’s deputies. They reappeared several minutes later, got into an elevator with deputies and walked out of the courthouse to more than a dozen news cameras.
Krusinski and Shane got into a car waiting on the street outside. Neither responded to requests for comment. Shane declined requests for comment.
Shane told The New York Times her client planned to plead not guilty. “Every time his name is mentioned, it seems that he’s being blamed for everything in the military,” she was quoted as saying. “This is just a misdemeanor case, not a felony, and a lot of focus is on him. It’s almost like he is a pawn in a chess game.”
'Good choice' for job
The charge against Krusinski, who’d held the job of chief of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office for just two months, was an embarrassment to the Air Force, already reeling from a number of scandals involving sexual misconduct and assault.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh told lawmakers on Capitol Hill May 7 that Krusinski’s record “is very good.”
“There is no indication in his professional record or performance or in his current work place that there’s any type of a problem like this,” Welsh said during a Senate Armed Services Committee meeting.
“He is a personnel officer by training. He has spent the last two and a half years working on the air staff in the personal policy arena. He was a force support squadron commander before coming to the Pentagon. Force support squadron is the squadron in which things like sexual assault coordination counselors, etcetera, work in our active Air Force units,” Welsh said.
Brig. Gen. Eden Murrie, director of Air Force Services, and Lt. Gen. Darrell Jones, deputy chief of staff for Manpower, Personnel and Services, selected Krusinski for the position, Welsh told lawmakers.
They reviewed the records of several eligible officers for the job, Air Force spokeswoman Lt. Col. Laurel Tingley said in an email. “Leadership felt Lt. Col. Krusinski’s credentials made him a good choice for the branch chief job.”
Krusinski graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1994. His past assignments include Force Support Squadron commander at McDill Air Force Base, Fla.; chief of Force Development at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio; and commander of Military Personnel Flight at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. He has held posts at Bolling Air Force Base, Washington, D.C., Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., and Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas.
He served a tour to Afghanistan in 2011 and 2012. He was deputy commander of the 332nd Expeditionary Mission Support Group at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, from Nov. 2009 to May 2010.
Krusinski was promoted to lieutenant colonel in July 2009. He makes nearly $132,000 a year, including base pay and housing allowance.
A public records search in several of the states where Krusinski has lived turned up no criminal history. He was divorced in Ohio in September 2009 after 14 years of marriage, according to the Butler County, Ohio, court documents. He and his wife have two children.
Ted A. West said in an email he worked with Krusinski at Eglin when he was a captain but did not know him well.
“I was shocked by the news, but the hypocrisy I’ve witnessed through several field grade officers who put on a good ‘show’ to absorb the tenets of a program and ‘walk the talk’ only to later see that fragile shell break apart and show their true self was hiding is all to be expected. They appear to be great leaders, people, and mentors, yet the more you get to know them — it tends to be all about themselves and career advancement. There are many wholesome, well balanced, and nurturing officers, yet the system does not always siphon them out, and sometimes gets the wrong ones,” he said.
A woman who described herself as a former ex-girlfriend of Krusinski’s commented on an Air Force Times story that he is incapable of the crime he’s been charged with.
“He is a great man, officer [and] father. ... He is still a loyal friend. He was appointed to this position for a reason,” wrote Lara Wedderburn Green.
The Air Force sought jurisdiction of the Krusinski case from the Arlington County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office. A spokesman for Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the allegations would be dealt with “swiftly and deci-sively.”
Critics of the military’s handing of sexual assaults immediately protested such a move, and prosecutor Theo Stamos said she intended to keep the case in Arlington.
“It occurred in Arlington County on the streets of Arlington; Arlington police were involved; it was not in conjunction with any military work, and this individual, as I understand it, [was] in civilian capacity of the streets of Arlington County, so there didn’t seem to me to be any reason that we wouldn’t go forward,” she said.
Welsh told lawmakers it is not uncommon for cases to be transferred from civilian authorities to the military. There is at least one recent example: A Joint Base Andrews, Md., technical sergeant charged with killing his infant son and severely abusing his infant daughter in the family’s off-base home was tried by a military jury in March.
But Stamos, who has been a prosecutor for 27 years, said she has tried many service members and this is the first time she’s received a request to transfer jurisdiction.
“It never occurred to me that a request would have been made, so we were proceeding with our prosecution and then I got a phone call from the Air Force asking for us not to go forward and for them to go forward with the prosecution,” she said.
An Air Force instruction gives the service the option of also putting Krusinski on trial in a military court, said Eric Sharman, a spokesman for the 11th Wing at Joint Base Andrews, Md.
“He can still be prosecuted under the [Uniform Code of Military Justice] because an accused person can be tried by a state and a federal court (UCMJ is considered federal) for the same crime,” Sharman said in an email.
Krusinski faces a harsher penalty under the UCMJ, where such an allegation would amount to a charge of abusive sexual contact. The maximum penalty is seven years behind bars, forfeiture of pay and allowances and dismissal.■
Staff writer Jeffrey Schogol contributed to this report.