Does Air Force Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski deserve an apology?
That’s what some Krusinski apologists demanded after a sexual assault charge against him was dropped last month.
No, Krusinski is not “Poppa Panda Sexy Pants,” the nom de bedroom given to Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair by one of his sex objects/military subordinates. Gen. Sexy Pant’s lurid court-martial is this week’s military sex scandal.
Krusinski is the guy at the center of a military sex scandal from a few months back. (I know, it gets confusing.)
Let me refresh your memory: Krusinski is the 41-year-old officer who was in charge of the Air Force’s office of sexual assault prevention until he was arrested this past Cinco de Mayo on, um, a sexual assault charge.
Arlington County police said he allegedly groped a woman’s breasts and buttocks outside a tired strip of bars in Crystal City, within walking distance of the Pentagon. A morning-after witness told me that the woman hit him in the face with her cellphone, explaining the cuts you saw on his mug shot.
The whole world saw that mug shot in the days after he was arrested. And there was an upside to the case: The irony of a military dude in charge of sexual assault prevention being charged with committing that very crime put pressure on the Pentagon to acknowledge the military’s sexual assault problem and pledge to do something about it.
But on the day his trial was supposed to start last month, Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos dropped the sexual assault charge, officially a charge of “sexual battery.” Authorities now intend to pursue a charge of assault and battery, without the sexual component.
Aha! Some readers e-mailed me gloating.
“With Arlington drop of sex charges, will you apologize to military or retract story?” a reader tweeted in one of the more civilized messages I received in this campaign.
In a statement, Krusinski’s attorney, Barry Coburn, said that the sexual assault charge was the only reason that his client made the news and that he hopes a change in the charge will give us all pause before we judge.
Seriously? These folks are acting as if it’s all over, with Krusinski free to go. Oopsie.
Not even close. And, no, I won’t be offering any mea culpas to Krusinski.
Krusinski is entitled to his day in court and the presumption that he is innocent until proved guilty. But the assault charge is a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia, and it carries the same punishment — up to a year in jail and steep fines — as the sexual battery charge.
Stamos said that after a thorough review of the case, prosecutors determined that — in light of the way the sexual battery statute is written and the way appellate rulings have interpreted it — the assault charge is more appropriate.
“The nuances of things may not be evidenced right away,” Stamos told me. “It wasn’t as clear in the fog of war, so to speak.”
Stamos said it wasn’t that the woman’s story changed, although she wouldn’t comment on the physical contact that allegedly occurred. A new trial date is expected to be set next week.
It seriously scares me to hear that anyone would think all is well simply because the legal nature of the lieutenant colonel’s situation has changed. Oh, it’s only an alleged assault! That’s not so bad.
Just to make it clear. It’s not okay to grope, grab, rape or assault a woman. (Or a man, for that matter.)
Inappropriate conduct by those in power is the scourge of our nation’s largest employer — the military. The unseemly conduct by the lewd, weak and power-hungry undermines and insults the brave and honorable work of the men and women in the armed services.
Thousands of service members have been killed or injured in ghastly ways doing their jobs. There are mothers who jump out of airplanes and fathers who bid farewell to family and home again and again in the name of serving their country. Meanwhile, we’ve got Gen. Poppa Panda Sexy Pants texting his lust and trysting all over the globe with subordinates; instructors who rapaciously assault their students in flight school; and recruiters making moves on teens at the Army info table.
How dare they?
In the Air Force alone, under Krusinski’s preventive care, 792 sexual assault cases were reported last year. Throughout the armed services, a recent survey estimated that there were 26,000 cases of unwanted sexual contact last year.
Thanks to Krusinski’s arrest, the nation paid closer attention to congressional hearings on sexual assault in the military. At those hearings, some lawmakers even raised the idea of giving civilian prosecutors the power to investigate sexual abuse and other serious crimes in the military.
And thanks to Krusinski’s arrest, the Air Force appointed Maj. Gen. Margaret Woodward to replace him and gave her a larger staff to tackle the problem of sexual assault.
It’s no mystery that sexual abuse is almost always more about power than it is about sex — or that violence and sexual assault are usually intertwined.
The Arlington police officer who answered a 911 call for help from a woman in a bar parking lot showed up, interviewed the woman, noted the scene, arrested and handcuffed Krusinski, and booked him on an assault charge.
That’s still news. What he is accused of doing is still wrong, and it still gives us reason to thank Krusinski for finally, truly, making us take a closer look at the abuse of power and sex in the ranks of our nation’s protectors.
To read previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/dvorak.