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Published: Friday, 5/2/2003

Onsted teacher faces sex counts

BY KIM BATES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

ONSTED, Mich. - A one-season Onsted girls' varsity basketball coach is accused of having sexual contact with a player, and authorities are investigating whether there are cases involving other girls.

Henry Eugene Cochran, Jr., 34, of Spring Arbor, Mich., is expected to be arraigned this morning in Lenawee County District Court in Adrian on six counts involving the student, who was 16 and 17 at the time of the offenses. The charges are misdemeanors.

The incidents, which occurred at the school, in its gym, and on basketball trips, allegedly took place between Thanksgiving last year through the beginning of March.

Cambridge Township Police Chief Larry Wibbeler said the age of consent in Michigan was raised April 1 to 18 from 16 for cases involving authority figures. But he said the instances allegedly involving Mr. Cochran took place before that date.

He said the case remains under investigation for possible offenses involving other girls. Mr. Cochran faces one count each of engaging in immoral, indecent, or obscene conduct in a public place; indecent exposure or immoral exhibition in a public place; soliciting or accosting a person to induce an immoral or illegal act; inviting or enticing a minor by promise or false statement; inviting and enticing a minor by any means to commit a lewd or immoral act in a public place, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. All are misdemeanors with possible sentences of up to 90 days in jail.

The chief said there were no cases of forcible sexual contact but that parents complained of suspicious activity by the coach, including one-on-one meetings with the girls at times he wouldn't normally see them, and some cases where he would lock the doors behind them.

Chief Wibbeler said his department received a complaint about Mr. Cochran from a relative of the female student Sunday night. On Monday, the chief said he arrived at Onsted High School to escort the teacher off school premises.

He later obtained a warrant and confiscated the teacher's computer.

Mr. Cochran was arrested at his Jackson County home on Tuesday night and taken to the Lenawee County jail. Mr. Cochran, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, was released later that evening after he posted a $1,500 bond.

Onsted Schools Superintendent Rob Flessner said yesterday that Mr. Cochran was placed on administrative leave with pay on Monday.

Mr. Flessner said he could not disclose many details about the matter, saying it remains under internal investigation. But he said Mr. Cochran was hired last year, taking over in the fall as the girls' basketball coach and a special education teacher.

The superintendent said Mr. Cochran voluntarily resigned in December as the girls' basketball coach but remained as a teacher. He said he did not know the reasons behind the resignation.

But Chief Wibbeler said he's learned through his investigation that parents of some of the players had complained to school officials about Mr. Cochran's behavior last fall. That included allegedly calling the girls into his office at individual times and locking the doors behind them.

“For a lot of parents, the flags just went up,” the chief said.

Mr. Flessner confirmed that the school district had received complaints, but he said those allegations were not at the level of the current charges facing Mr. Cochran. He declined further comment.



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