- Air Force Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski was arrested in May
- He was accused of allegedly grabbing a woman's buttocks and breasts
- Krusinski headed a military unit aimed at preventing sexual assaults
- His lawyer says the charge has been changed from sexual battery to assault and battery
The sexual battery charge against an Air Force officer who had headed a military unit aimed at preventing sexual assaults was changed to assault and battery, his lawyer said Thursday.
Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, a 1994 graduate of the Air Force Academy who served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, was arrested in May for allegedly grabbing a woman's buttocks and breasts in a parking lot in Arlington County, Virginia, near the Pentagon.
A police report said the unidentified woman fought off her assailant, who appeared intoxicated.
Speaking to media outside the Arlington County Courthouse Thursday, Krusinski's attorney, Barry Coburn, pointed out that that while both charges are still categorized as misdemeanor charges, the change is quite significant.
"The other offense is not a sex offense and my own sense of this is the reason this matter became newsworthy in the first instance was given Col. Krusinski's job responsibilities (and) he was initially charged with a sex offense," he said.
After taking the position with the sexual assault prevention unit in February, Krusinski underwent training aimed at preparing him for his duties, Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. John Dorrian told CNN in May.
Dorrian said Krusinski's record was "exemplary" and contained nothing that would have precluded him from serving with the unit.
Krusinski served in Iraq from November 2009 to May 2010 and in Afghanistan from August 2011 to February 2012, earning five non-combat medals during 19 years of service.
In a written statement Coburn distributed to media outside the courthouse, he expressed appreciation to prosecutors for their "care and diligence" used in this matter.
"Charging decisions such as this one must be based on the facts and the law of each individual case, not on politics or the desire to have a 'teachable moment' concerning issues such as sexual abuse in the military," Coburn said.
An alarming spike in sexual assault cases in the armed forces has brought the issue front and center, prompting both President Barack Obama and top military brass to vow change.
The Navy and Marine Corps will begin publishing their own versions of a sex offenders list as part of an effort to crack down on sexual assaults, CNN has learned.
After his appearance Thursday, Krusinski made no comments to reporters outside the courthouse. He has been removed from his job leading a branch of the Air Force's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program.
Coburn said he anticipates that Krusinski will plead not guilty when the case heads to trial.