A Roman Catholic priest pleaded no contest Tuesday to a statutory rape charge for allegedly fondling a 14-year-old student at the prep school where he taught, prosecutors said.
The Rev. Richard Cochrane entered the plea which does not admit guilt but acknowledges overwhelming evidence–in Monroe County Court, a prosecutor’s office spokeswoman said.
In 1999, the boy testified at a preliminary hearing that he and a friend had gone on a weekend trip to the Poconos with Cochrane in 1991. The boy said he drank beer and was carried to bed, and awoke to find Cochrane touching him improperly.
“We just continue to keep Father Cochrane and all those involved in our prayers,” said James Stewart, head of the private Malvern Preparatory School in suburban Philadelphia where Cochrane taught theology for 24 years. Cochrane left after the allegations surfaced.
The felony charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. His sentencing was scheduled for March 20.
At least 325 priests have been dismissed from their duties or resigned since the sex abuse scandal erupted in Boston early last year.
Also Tuesday, a minister in Roseville, Mich., was sentenced to five years of probation for sexually touching three female parishioners during prayer sessions.
The Rev. Gennaro Joseph Piscopo, 50, of the Evangel Christian Church, was sentenced to probation because it was his first offense.
Piscopo’s attorney, George Michaels, has said touching a participant’s arms and legs during the deliverances–when participants ask that evil spirits be cast from their souls–is common practice.
Piscopo has appealed his conviction. “He wants to clear his name,” Michaels said Tuesday.