Tahlequah Daily Press

December 13, 2012

OSU student charged with sex crimes

Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — An Oklahoma State University student with ties to Cherokee County has been formally charged in Payne County with sexually assaulting several men.

Nathan Michael Cochran, 22, faces three counts of sexual battery. An arrest warrant was issued Wednesday with bond set at $100,000, according to court records.

Cochran now has a Stillwater address, but previously listed a Heavener address.

He stands accused of committing sexual acts against several victims, with assaults reportedly occurring Nov. 3, 2011, and Aug. 15, 2012.

The alleged assaults against two of the victims are the basis for Wednesday’s charges in Payne County.

Police affidavits indicate the alleged victims claim Cochran touched them in a sexual manner without their consent and while they were asleep. Both victims were friends of Cochran when the attacks occurred, according to court records.

One victim says Cochran stayed in his dorm room after Cochran claimed he was drunk and didn’t want to drive home last August. That victim told police he awoke to find Cochran fondling him. The victim retreated to a bathroom until Cochran left the room, an affidavit states.

Cochran soon afterward sent several text messages to the victim, including one that said Cochran didn’t want to ruin his life because he was “black-out drunk and f----d up,” according to a police affidavit. Cochran also claimed in one text that he had a girlfriend and said he didn’t want the male victim to “get the super-wrong impression.”

A second alleged victim claims he and Cochran were watching a movie in November 2011 when the victim fell asleep, then awoke as Cochran was fondling him. He told police he didn’t know what to do, so he pretended to be sleeping and hoped his lack of response would cause Cochran to stop committing the act.

But according to a police affidavit, Cochran continued to sexually assault the victim and began to perform oral sex on the man, among other acts. He finally left when the victim did not respond.

A student-conduct committee at OSU recently found Cochran to be responsible for four violations of school conduct related to alleged sexual assaults against other males.

After the university’s investigation, Cochran was suspended from OSU for three years, beginning this Friday. Stillwater police learned of the allegations against Cochran and began their own investigation when a reporter from OSU’s newspaper contacted the department for information.

Gary Clark, OSU’s general counsel, told the Stillwater NewsPress on Wednesday he doesn’t believe the victims who spoke to OSU officials during the school’s probe are the same victims who spoke to Stillwater police.

Investigators have said there could be “dozens” of victims.

Tahlequah investigators said one of the alleged assaults happened in the Tahlequah area when a victim came home over a holiday break and brought Cochran with him. Tahlequah police are working with Stillwater officers in the investigation, though no charges have been filed against Cochran in Cherokee County.

According to The Daily O’Collegian, OSU’s newspaper, school officials have said Cochran was confronted when the allegations first surfaced, and he denied the assaults. More hearings were called in the case, but Cochran did not appear before the panel and never requested a continuance, according to the newspaper’s report.

OSU officials never notified police of the allegations brought to their attention by alleged victims in November.

“Even though we will encourage them to go to the police, that’s not our place to force them by giving their name to the police,” Clark told the NewsPress Wednesday.

School officials have said federal guidelines prohibited them from detailing to police the allegations. Clark told the NewsPress that, because some of the alleged assaults occurred as many as 18 months ago, and the victims were not strangers to Cochran, school officials felt there was no emergency.