Skip to main content

After officer charged in sex assault, military faces questions

By Barbara Starr and Greg Seaby, CNN
updated 7:35 PM EDT, Tue May 7, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Officer will be arraigned Thursday
  • NEW: Virginia prosecutor says she won't turn over case to military
  • Lawyer for officer has no comment
  • President says he will have the "backs" of military members who feel violated

(CNN) -- With a top Air Force officer facing allegations of sexual battery and the Pentagon releasing a troubling report on the number of sex crimes in the military, President Barack Obama said Tuesday that he has "no tolerance" for sexual assault in the armed services.

Obama's remarks at the White House were in response to new Pentagon statistics showing an increase in reports of sex assaults, as well as allegations of sexual battery against an Air Force officer who led a sex assault prevention unit.

Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, 41, was arrested early Sunday in Arlington, Virginia, just outside Washington, accused of grabbing a woman's breasts and buttocks, Arlington County police said.

According to the police log posted on the Arlington County web site, the woman fought off a "drunken" assailant in a parking lot about 12:35 a.m. when he tried to grab her again before she called authorities.

The woman did not know her attacker, Arlington County police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck said.

Krusinski has been removed from his duty pending the outcome of an investigation, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said at a briefing with reporters.

Krusinski initially was held on $5,000 bond. He will be arraigned Thursday.

Sheryl Shane, an attorney for Krusinski, told CNN she had no comment on the case. A call to the officer was not immediately returned.

Arlington County Commonwealth's Attorney Theo Stamos told CNN that the Air Force had contacted her and requested that the county transfer the case to the military for prosecution.

She said she told the Air Force that the county has routinely prosecuted service members and will hold onto the case.

"It never occurred to me to turn over the case to the military." Stamos said.

In February Krusinski was placed in charge of a branch of the Air Force's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program, and he oversaw a five-person office, an Air Force official said Monday. The official declined to be named, citing an ongoing law enforcement matter.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh and Air Force Secretary Michael Donley were "appalled" by the allegations against Krusinski, they told members of Congress at a Senate Armed Service Committee hearing.

Welsh said asking for jurisdiction in a case involving a service member and a civilian was "standard practice in cases like these."

Hagel has expressed disgust over the allegations.

"We're particularly disappointed because this alleged incident occurred here at the headquarters, the heart and the -- and the main leadership of our institution," he said. "And our men and women around the world who give of themselves and their families certainly must expect more and deserve more. So we all have to take some responsibility."

The Defense Department released figures on Tuesday that indicated that the number of military members who experienced a sexual assault increased from 19,300 in 2010 to 26,000 in 2012. The figure was extrapolated from a 24% response rate to 108,000 surveys.

Obama said he wants to see victims feel comfortable reporting when they have been victimized.

"For those who are in uniform who've experienced sexual assault, I want them to hear directly from their commander in chief that I've got their backs," he said. "I will support them, and we're not gonna tolerate this stuff. And there will be accountability. If people have engaged in this behavior, they should be prosecuted."

CNN's Ashley Fantz and Shirley Henry contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT