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  Area Priest Accused of Sex Assault / He Was a Malvern Prep Teacher at the Time of the Alleged Incident with a Student, 14, in 1991

By Marc Schogol and Nancy Petersen
Philadelphia Inquirer
August 7, 1999

A priest who formerly taught at the Malvern Preparatory School in Chester County was arrested yesterday on charges that in 1991 he took a 14-year-old male student to the Poconos, served him alcohol, showed him a pornographic movie, and had sex with him.

According to Monroe County authorities, the boy said he woke up during the night to find the Rev. Richard J. Cochrane fondling him and having sex with him.

Father Cochrane, 54, was suspended in December from the Catholic all-boys' school, where he had worked for 24 years. He taught Bible studies and formerly had been admissions director.

Cochrane surrendered to Pocono Mountain Regional Police in Pocono Pines at 4 p.m. yesterday and was arraigned in nearby Tobyhanna an hour later. In response to reporters' questions following the arraignment, Father Cochrane said: "I am not permitted to speak."

During the arraignment, Monroe County District Attorney Mark Pazuhanich said: "There is another alleged victim that has a similar story but may be barred by the statute of limitations. But he will testify at the trial."

Pazuhanich would not elaborate on that allegation. He said at an earlier news conference that more than one boy had gone on the June 1991 Poconos trip.

The charges stem from an alleged incident that occurred at a house owned by the parents of another student at the school, Pazuhanich said.

The arrest affidavit quotes John E. Deegan, prior provincial of the Augustinian Order, as saying that Father Cochrane had admitted bringing the boy to the house and serving him alcohol. Malvern Prep is an Augustinian school.

After voluntarily surrendering yesterday afternoon at the headquarters of the Pocono Mountain Regional Police Department in Pocono Pines, Father Cochrane was arraigned on one count of rape and one count of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse. Each carries a maximum penalty of 19 to 20 years' imprisonment and fines of up to $25,000.

The alleged victim's name is being withheld by The Inquirer because of the nature of the charges.

Father Cochrane was released on $50 unsecured bail.

Pending his preliminary hearing Thursday, he will be attached to and living at the Provincial Headquarters of the Augustinian Order near Villanova University, also an Augustinian school.

The case came to light in late June, when the prep school contacted the Chester County District Attorney's office about the allegations.

When Chester County investigators determined that the incident was alleged to have taken place in Monroe County, they referred the complaint to authorities there.

The charges were filed just weeks before the statute of limitations would have expired - when the complainant turns 23 at the end of this month. Under the law, the case had to be brought within five years of the complainant's 18th birthday.

Asked why the former student had waited eight years, assistant Monroe County District Attorney Sherri Stephan said yesterday: "It's typical of many sexual assaults. It's when they [the alleged victims] come forward."

Malvern Prep has 575 boys enrolled in grades 6 through 12. It has about 90 faculty and staff members, five of whom are members of the religious order.

In a letter distributed to parents, officials at Malvern Prep said: "While disheartened by these allegations, we also understand the need for the authorities to investigate them, and encourage them to do so for all of the parties involved."

CORRECTION-DATE: AUGUST 9, 1999

CORRECTION:
CLEARING THE RECORD, PUBLISHED AUGUST 9, 1999, FOLLOWS:
An article in Saturday's Inquirer on a priest charged with sexually molesting a Malvern Preparatory School student incorrectly reported the amount of bail and the maximum penalty under the charges. The Rev. Richard J. Cochrane was released on $50,000 unsecured bail and could face 10 to 20 years of imprisonment on each of two felony charges.

 
 

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