OSU calls for review of its investigation into student's alleged sex offenses
BY SAMANTHA VICENT World Correspondent and ZACK STOYCOFF World Staff Writer
Thursday, December 13, 2012
12/14/12 at 2:39 AM
STILLWATER -- Oklahoma State University's governing board will review the university's investigation into sexual assault allegations against a student last month, the university announced Thursday.
Nathan Micheal Cochran, 22, was arraigned Thursday in Payne County District Court after surrendering to Stillwater police late Wednesday on three felony counts of sexual battery. He remains in Payne County Jail on $100,000 bond.
OSU President Burns Hargis asked the OSU-A&M Board of Regents on Thursday to review the university's investigation into five male students' accusations that Cochran had sexually assaulted them.
Conduct review panels determined on Nov. 30 that four of the accusers' claims were valid, but administrators did not notify police out of respect for the students' privacy, university officials have said. Cochran was suspended for three years beginning Friday, the last day of the semester.
Stillwater police began the investigation that led to Cochran's charges after a reporter with the university's student newspaper contacted police.
The Board of Regent's review will be conducted by a task force created in July to review systemwide policies for handling sexual misconduct after the Penn State University scandal.
“The seriousness of this matter warrants a focused and full investigation into how it was handled by the University,” Hargis said in a statement. “We treat sexual misconduct incidents among students at OSU as a violation of the student code of conduct, involving confidential on-campus hearings. As was the case here, students who bravely came forward knew they would have a private and safe environment in which to report allegations of sexual misconduct against another student.
"Nevertheless, questions remain and we have an obligation to clear up any ambiguity, and if warranted, amend and strengthen our policies and procedures while abiding by federal laws."
Cochran appeared in court via video before Payne County Judge R.L. Hert to hear his three sexual battery charges. A not-guilty plea was entered on his behalf.
Assistant District Attorney Jill Tontz recommended that Hert set a bond reduction hearing for Cochran next week, as Associate District Judge Katherine Thomas would be unable to hear Cochran's case Friday. Thomas signed the warrant requesting the $100,000 bond, court records show.
Cochran will next appear in court at 1:30 p.m. Dec. 19.
According to court affidavits, Cochran is accused of sexually assaulting two males on Nov. 3, 2011, and Aug. 15. The first incident happened in the Stillwater city limits, with the witness alleging that Cochran attempted to force him to perform oral sex while he was sleeping, according to the affidavit. Two of the sexual battery charges stem from that incident.
A witness in the second incident told OSU investigators that Cochran assaulted him in his on-campus residence. He woke up around 4 a.m. that day to see Cochran trying to put his hands down his gym shorts, according to the affidavit. The witness in that case also showed investigators text messages Cochran sent him, which ask the witness "not to ruin his life" because he was "blackout" drunk when the incident occurred, court records show.
Stillwater police Capt. Randy Dickerson said Wednesday that detectives have spoken to at least six possible victims, with possibly "dozens" more who have not yet come forward.
Nathan Micheal Cochran