A military judge and counsel for the defense and government succeeded in filling a jury panel Friday in a sex abuse and assault court-martial of a Nellis Air Force Base major.
“Sometimes things happen and cases can take longer than planned,” the judge, Lt. Col. Christopher Schumann, said at the conclusion of four days of legal wrangling to whittle down a combined field of 18 superior officers to seat five court members, or jurors.
The five-member panel meets the quorum required for the trial of Maj. Charles L. Cox Jr., a nurse in the 99th Medical Operations Squadron at Nellis.
Schumann set Jan. 21 for the court-martial to resume with opening statements that will set the stage for a trial expected to last four days. Cox was arraigned in July, within the limitation for a speedy trial. As many as 21 witnesses could testify.
Cox pleaded not guilty to all charges Tuesday. He is accused of touching the buttocks and anus of an airman first class “with intent to arouse or gratify his own sexual desire” while the man was asleep on Aug. 4, 2012.
Cox also pleaded not guilty to assault consummated by battery for unlawfully touching the airman’s buttocks, anus and back with his hand.
In addition, he pleaded not guilty to conduct unbecoming of an officer and a gentleman in connection with allegations of being drunk and disorderly on Aug. 3, 2012, in the presence of enlisted airmen and making sexual comments to enlisted women in the Air Force.
If Cox is convicted of abusive sexual conduct, he could be dismissed from duty or, in essence, dishonorably discharged, confined for seven years and required to forfeit all pay and allowances.
It took four days to select the court members because seven from the first field of 11 were eliminated on grounds of an implied bias after being quizzed on their exposure to pretrial publicity.
Prosecution and defense teams also asked the potential panelists about being pressured to convict Cox in light of growing concern by Pentagon officials and comments made by President Barack Obama to change the culture of uniformed personnel amid a surge of sex assault cases in the military.
The convening authority, Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Lofgren, had to field seven more court members for screening Thursday for the court to select two to make the quorum. One of those, a colonel, was eliminated by the defense’s allotted preference to excuse one from the panel even though Schumann said the colonel met the fairness condition for deciding on conviction and sentencing.
The panel consists of all men of superior rank to Cox; one colonel, three lieutenant colonels and a major of higher grade.
Contact reporter Keith Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0308.