ARLINGTON, Va. -- A woman testified that an Air Force officer who once led the branch's sexual-assault response team groped her outside a Crystal City bar, then asked her if she liked it.
A misdemeanor assault trial began Tuesday for Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, 42, of Arlington. He was arrested following the alleged assault on May 5 and initially charged with misdemeanor sexual battery, setting off a national furor about sexual abuse in the military and whether top brass take the issue seriously.
Arlington County prosecutors subsequently dropped the sexual battery charge and substituted a generic assault-and-battery charge. Commonwealth's Attorney Theo Stamos says the new charge was more appropriate given the standard of proof required for a sexual battery conviction in Virginia.
But the core allegation remains the same. In court Tuesday, the 23-year-old woman told a seven-member jury that Krusinski grabbed and squeezed her buttocks outside a row of bars and restaurants, and then asked her, "Did you like it?"
The woman, who works for the Treasury Department, said she felt "just totally violated." She testified that she followed him a few steps as he walked past, confronted him, and punched him in the face several times after he gesticulated in a manner that brought his hands close to her chest.
A mug shot of Krusinski taken after his arrest shows his face badly scratched.
An employee at one of the bars also testified that she witnessed part of the groping, and that minutes earlier Krusinski had grabbed the buttocks of two bar employees, including herself.
The employee described Krusinski as "a very happy drunk" who approached her and several bar employees on a smoke break, asking to bum a cigarette. The employee said Krusinski grabbed the buttocks of one employee, and then grabbed hers. She said she frequently deals with drunken customers and brushed it off.
The employee, a transsexual, said Krusinski whispered to her, "You have a penis. I have a penis. It's OK. You can come home with me."
"He was a drunken mess," the employee said of Krusinski.
She said a minute or two later, he saw Krusinski walk past the woman who filed charges and "saw his hand come off from her buttocks."
The employee said the woman then "went crazy" and started beating Krusinski, who stood with his hands behind her back and "just took it like a guy." Only after the woman put her fingers in Krusinski's nose and twisted did he try to protect himself, the employee said.
"I don't know if it was guilt or what," said the employee, who said that Krusinski seemed remorseful.
Both the woman and the employee were identified in court, but The Associated Press generally does not identify individuals who say they have been sexually assaulted.
There were some differences in how the employee and the alleged victim described the attack. The woman said she felt Krusinski come up behind her, with his chest to her back, and grabbed her buttocks with both hands. Employee described seeing the two walking in opposite directions and only seeing one of Krusinski's hands on the woman.
The woman said she punched Krusinski several times in the face after following and confronting him.
The employee said she saw the woman hitting Krusinski as many as 15 times, striking from behind on the back of his head with her cellphone.
In opening statements, defense attorney Barry Coburn said the inconsistencies in witness accounts would add up to reasonable doubt.
Prosecutor Cari Steele said the standard of proof for a misdemeanor assault conviction requires that Krusinski willfully touched the woman in an "angry, rude, insulting or vengeful manner."
The Air Force removed Krusinski from his Sexual Assault Prevention and Response unit post after his arrest.
The trial is expected to continue until Wednesday or Thursday.