UPDATE: Student arrested on sex crime complaints - ocolly.com : OSU

UPDATE: Student arrested on sex crime complaints

Former fraternity member accused of groping, penetration

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Posted: Wednesday, December 12, 2012 5:21 pm

A student found responsible for sexual misconduct by OSU's student conduct board turned himself in to the Stillwater Police Department just Wednesday night.

Nathan Cochran, 22, was arrested around 10:15 p.m. Wednesday on a warrant for three counts of sexual battery, Stillwater Capt. Randy Dickerson said. Cochran was charged with the crimes around 4:30 p.m. that day. He is in custody at the Stillwater City Jail and will be transferred to the Payne County Jail before his arraignment on Thursday, Dickerson said.

Detectives contacted members of Cochran's family in northeastern Oklahoma and learned that he and one of his relatives were en route from there to the police department to facilitate his arrest, he said.

Cochran is accused of committing the acts on Nov. 3, 2011 and Aug. 15, according to the Oklahoma State Courts Network.

OSU university officials released the results of its student conduct investigation on Tuesday, revealing the board found Cochran responsible for four violations of sexual misconduct. Cochran was suspended from the university for three years, effective Friday, according to the document. He was a member of FarmHouse fraternity and served as secretary of the Interfraternity Council until last week.

On Dec. 11, Stillwater police Sgt. Jeff Watts interviewed a witness who said on the night of Nov. 3, he woke up to find Cochran's hand down his pants, where he was rubbing his genital area. The man said he pretended to be asleep in hopes Cochran would stop, according to an affidavit. Soon after, the man reported feeling Cochran's genitals on his face and around his mouth, saying Cochran tried to make him perform oral sex, the affidavit says.

During that night, the man said Cochran performed oral sex and digital anal penetration, eventually stopping when the man did not respond, according to the same affidavit.

In a separate affidavit, another man claimed Cochran groped and fondled his genital area in his on-campus dorm room around 4 a.m. on Aug. 15. The witness went into the bathroom when he woke up and realized what was happening, according to the affidavit. 

Soon after, Cochran left, sending the witness several text messages apologizing for his drunken behavior, according to the affidavit. 

In a conference call Wednesday, administrators Gary Shutt and Gary Clark elaborated on the university's handling of the incident. 

Clark said the university first received a call Nov. 7 from FarmHouse president Nick Jordan and two advisers requesting information on how students can come forward to report sexual misconduct. The university provided packets with information about how to contact campus and local law enforcement, as well as counseling services on and off-campus.

On Nov. 9, student conduct received a written complaint alleging Cochran committed multiple sexual assaults, Clark said. The student conduct panel met with the first of five possible victims Nov. 12 and a second complainant came forward the next day. The first victim said he did not want to notify police of the incident.

Cochran denied the allegations at the time, necessitating a level three conduct committee hearing. Level three hearings are used when suspension or expulsion from the university is possible and/or when one of the parties denies the accusations made against him or her, according to the student code of conduct handbook.

On Nov. 28, three additional possible victims approached student conduct with claims against Cochran. Clark said despite the short notice, the panel elected to hear all five incidents Nov. 30.

Cochran did not appear in front of the panel for the hearings but did not request a continuance, Clark said.

After providing a timeline of the investigation, Clark defended the university's decision not to notify police.

"Our office of student conduct did not believe, and correctly so in retrospect, that there was a threat," he said.

Some of the complainants said Cochran assaulted them between six and 18 months prior to their reports to student conduct, Clark said.

Clark also said he did not think revealing Cochran's identity would help police because the university would not be able to release the names of his accusers, citing FERPA guidelines.

"What would the police be able to do with that information?" he said. "Nothing, as far as I can tell."

Since the conclusion of student conduct's investigation, at least five alleged victims have contacted the Stillwater Police Dept., Capt. Randy Dickerson said Wednesday. Clark said detectives do not believe the people going to police are the same as those who reported the matter to student conduct.

Shutt said it was "unusual" for student conduct to handle sex crime allegations, adding that victims normally approach campus or local law enforcement. 

Amid disputes over OSU's possible obligations to report the crime to police, Clark defended the university's approach to the situation.

"We provided information about counseling services for these victims," he said. "We're here to support our students and to protect their privacy rights...We haven't enjoyed being bashed in the press, and I think unfairly, for trying to follow the law."

The debate over OSU's perceived legal and ethical responsibility comes from its interpretation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA. Earlier this week, the university said it would be an invasion of the victims' privacy to notify police of the reported assaults. Clark added to this Wednesday, saying each victim is an adult and can contact police on his own.

"It's not our place to try to force (victims) to try to do something they don't want to do," he said.

Despite this, Clark said had The Daily O'Collegian not questioned Stillwater police about the allegations, he was unsure if law enforcement would have ever discovered them.