OSU sexual assault suspect pleads not guilty
STILLWATER, Okla. – A former Oklahoma State University fraternity member, charged with three counts of sexual battery against male victims, made an initial appearance before a Payne County judge Thursday afternoon.
Nathan Cochran, 22, allegedly assaulted the victims while they were asleep.
Cochran was arraigned before a judge on a video monitor feed from the jail.
His attorney, Jay Husbands, entered a “not guilty” plea for him.
OSU has suspended Cochran for three years and he could be facing 10 years in prison for each sexual battery count.
“Everyone that knows Nathan is highly surprised,” Husbands said after the arraignment.
He said Cochran comes from a hard-working family and has excelled in school.
Since Cochran turned himself in Wednesday night, Husbands doesn’t believe his client should be held on a $100,000 bond.
“He’s charged with three counts of sexual battery, which are serious and significant, but that bond is highly excessive and we’re going to try to get that lowered,” Husbands said.”
Cochran remains in jail and will have a bond reduction hearing next Wednesday afternoon.
“Students are pretty upset, almost universally, that OSU didn’t send out any kind of safety alert or anything of that nature,” OSU student Samantha Vicent said, who works for the Daily O’Collegian campus newspaper.
She said Cochran counseled incoming freshman and was a part of student government, so it’s shocking to hear the allegations.
In a police affidavit, one victim who was a roommate with Cochran in Nov. 2011 said he woke up to realize Cochran was touching his genitals.
The affidavit states the roommate “didn’t know what to do, so he just pretended to be asleep thinking Nathan would stop assaulting him if he did not respond to what was happening.”
In August, another victim claimed an assault happened in his dorm room and said he awoke to find Cochran attempting to place his hands inside his shorts.
The affidavit said Cochran later sent a text stating, “I just want you to talk to me, so you don’t get the super wrong impression.”
Vicent said the allegations happened months prior to OSU alerting police.
“I think what’s different about this case is the university’s response,” she said. “Dealing with it through student conduct rather than taking it to law enforcement.”
In a statement released Thursday afternoon, OSU President Burns Hargis commended the alleged victims for coming forward and called for a task force review of OSU’s handling of the incidents.
He said, “We cannot leave any doubt that we are indeed properly and appropriately handling sexual misconduct allegations, and we must determine if we need to amend our policies and procedures to more effectively and efficiently handle these types of matters in the future.”
Stillwater police said five or six other alleged victims have been hesitant to come forward.
They are continuing a joint investigation with OSU Police.