Trial Ordered for Priest on Rape Charge / the Alleged Victim Detailed the Encounter with the Former Malvern Prep Priest. He Had Just Finished His Freshman Year

By Nancy Petersen
Philadelphia Inquirer [Pocono Pines]
October 22, 1999

A priest who taught at Malvern Preparatory School for more than 25 years will be tried next year on charges that he raped a former student in this vacation community more than eight years ago.

After a preliminary hearing that lasted nearly an hour yesterday morning, District Justice Richard S. Claypool ruled that the Rev. Richard J. Cochrane, 54, should stand trial on two first-degree felony charges - rape and involuntary deviant sexual intercourse.

"I am pleased with the outcome," said prosecutor Sherri Stephan of the Monroe County District Attorney's Office. "He was bound over to the Court of Common Pleas on all charges."

A member of the Augustinian Order, Father Cochrane appeared in court wearing a rust-colored crew-neck sweater over his clerical collar. He said that he was handling the situation "prayerfully." He remains free on $50,000 unsecured bail.

The alleged victim, whose name is being withheld by The Inquirer because of the nature of the crime, said he had just finished his freshman year at Malvern Prep when Father Cochrane invited him and another boy to the Poconos for a weekend of hiking and drinking. The trio went to a house owned by the parents of another student at the school.

The now-23-year-old man said that during the school year, he and Father Cochrane had gradually become close friends, even to the point where Father Cochrane went to his parents' house and said Mass.

He said that Father Cochrane urged him to drink on the Poconos trip so that he would have experience with alcohol before going on a European trip with Father Cochrane and a group of students later that summer.

They arrived with at least two cases of beer and started drinking about an hour after they arrived at the house, the man said. The man, who was 14 years old at the time, said it was his first experience with alcohol.

"It hit me pretty hard," he said.

"Due to my intoxication, I don't remember a significant part of the night," the man said, "but I do remember I couldn't walk."

He said that Father Cochrane and the other youth on the trip had to carry him to the bedroom.

"I woke up naked next to Father Cochrane," he said, and then they engaged in a sex act.

Under cross-examination by defense attorney John Rogers Carroll of Philadelphia, the man did not waver from his story despite a night punctuated by self-described "blackouts." He said he "got pleasure" from the incident.

But the man said if he had not been so drunk, he would not have allowed the incident to happen.

The next morning, the three made breakfast and then went for a hike, he said. Although there was no discussion about the events of the previous evening, the man said he remembered what happened.

"But I just denied it," he said. "That this so-called friend could do this to me - I just did not want to accept that it happened. I am 100 percent sure he did it."

The man said that he continued to be friends with Father Cochrane, but that his attitude toward him changed.

"I had a confused opinion of him because of what happened," the man said.

Now a college student and living in Maine, the man had not seen Father Cochrane since graduating from Malvern Prep.

"He's [the man] turning his life around," said Stephan, the prosecutor.

If found guilty, Father Cochrane could receive up to 20 years in prison on each of the two counts and fines of up to $25,000.


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