The Commonwealth of Virginia changed the sexual battery charge against a U.S. Air Force officer to assault and battery Thursday, saying the sex offense could not be legitimately charged in this case, Northern Virginia Bureau reporter David Culver said.
The misdemeanor case goes to a grand jury in August.
Defense lawyers subpoenaed more than a dozen witnesses to testify at the trial of 41-year-old Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, who led the branch's sexual assault response unit.
Police said Krusinski groped a woman in a Crystal City parking lot in May. The charges against Krusinski were the first in a string of embarrassing cases for military leaders struggling with the issue of sexual assaults within the ranks.
Defense lawyers have indicated in court papers that they may seek to put on evidence about what the alleged victim had been drinking that night.
"Obviously we disagree with the decision to charge him at all," defense attorney Barry Coburn said. "We look forward to challenging the matter."
Those representing female victims of sexual assaults were in court Wednesday. Air Force Reservists Colonel Vlerie Knobloch said the military culture needs to change toward victims of sex abuse.
"These individuals need to be able to come forward in an environment and know that they're going to get help," Knobloch said.
The Air Force removed Krusinski from his post at the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response unit after his arrest.