The sexual battery charge against Lt. Col Jeffrey Krusinski — the former chief of the U.S. Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response branch — has been dropped, but Arlington County prosecutors intend to charge him with regular assault instead.
Police arrested Krusinski in May after an incident that we’re told began near Freddie’s Beach Bar and Restaurant on 23rd Street S. in Crystal City, and then carried over to a nearby parking lot. He is accused of grabbing the breasts and buttocks of a woman he didn’t know.
At the time, Krusinski was chief of the Air Force’s program to prevent sexual assault, but he was removed from that position shortly after his arrest. According to the Air Force Times, a female two-star general now leads the branch.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos said dropping the sexual assault charge is a procedural move. Prosecutors are seeking a grand jury indictment for the new assault charge on August 19.
The change means the case can now head to Circuit Court instead of General District Court. It prevents a potential extra step in the prosecution, since convictions in the lower court can be appealed to the Circuit Court.
Just as with sexual battery, a charge of assault and battery is considered a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia and carries similar maximum penalties — a fine and up to one year in jail. The main difference is that prosecutors do not have to make the case for lewd behavior or intent.
Krusinski’s attorney, Barry Coburn, released the following statement today:
One of the most critical tasks prosecutors perform is the exercise of prosecutorial discretion: deciding how a case should be charged. Here, the prosecutors in Arlington County have exercised their discretion with care and judgment. While we respectfully disagree with the decision to charge Lt. Col. Krusinski with any offense, and look forward to defending our client at trial, we very much appreciate the care and diligence with which these prosecutors reached the conclusion that a sex offense could not legitimately be charged in this case.
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. It is noteworthy that the reason this case became highly publicized was the combination of Col. Krusinski’s job responsibilities in the Air Force and the fact that he initially was arrested for misdemeanor sexual battery. His name and photograph were in virtually every newspaper in the country for these reasons. Now a decision has been reached by careful, responsible prosecutors that that was not the correct charge. This sequence of events hopefully will, in the future, give all of us, particularly persons of great responsibility, pause before we make premature judgments about pending criminal cases before trial, particularly cases involving individuals who have devoted their entire professional lives to military service.