Former Trooper Justin "Jay" Cooley is pictured in 2014. Credit: Courtesy of Maine State Police Facebook page

Former state trooper Justin “Jay” Cooley pleaded guilty to domestic violence assault on Wednesday for hitting his ex-wife, resolving a criminal case that drew scrutiny over how the Maine State Police initially responded to her complaints of abuse.

Cooley accepted a plea deal during an in-person hearing in Androscoggin County Superior Court. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor domestic violence assault in exchange for prosecutors dropping additional counts of domestic violence assault and domestic violence stalking, according to his attorney, Allan Lobozzo of Lewiston.

Cooley’s conviction stems from a text message he sent to his ex-wife in May 2019 where he admitted to hitting her on the head.

Cooley will not do jail time. Justice Valerie Stanfill sentenced Cooley to a 364-day suspended jail sentence and two years of probation, Lobozzo said. The former trooper will also be required to attend a 48-week batterers intervention program.

“Mr. Cooley has sought assistance for substance abuse, out of state and in state,” his attorney said. “He’s getting help for some of the issues that ended his career.”

Former Maine State Police Trooper Justin Cooley’s mug shot. Credit: Courtesy of the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office

Cooley, a 22-year veteran of the state police, was the subject of a joint-investigation by the Bangor Daily News and Portland Press Herald that was published earlier this month, and part of a series that examined how the Maine State Police conceals the details of officer misconduct.

Amy Burns, Cooley’s ex-wife, told the newspapers that it took the state police weeks to open a criminal investigation into her then-husband’s alcohol-fueled violence after she first contacted his supervisors in the spring of 2019. Instead, the agency initially seemed to address his behavior as a personnel issue and sent him to a rehabilitation center for his drinking.

Cooley was criminally charged in August 2019 and resigned from the state police in January 2020 while he was still on administrative leave. The state police did not document the circumstances surrounding his departure in his resignation records and did not discipline him.

The Maine Criminal Justice Academy, which licenses police and corrections officers, revoked his law enforcement certificate in September after finding there was enough evidence to conclude he had assaulted Burns.

This story was supported by funding from the Pulitzer Center.

Callie Ferguson is an investigative reporter for the Bangor Daily News. She writes about criminal justice, police and housing.