James Cochran was led into court in handcuffs Wednesday facing the prospects of spending the rest of his life in prison for having sex with an underage prostitute. He said he believed the girl when she told him she was 18.
But the girl turned out to be a 13-year-old runaway, and Wichita police caught up with her in December 2010 at the home of a man later identified as her pimp. Police said Cochran paid to have sex with the girl earlier that same day. They said Cochran had twice before had sex with her in his north Wichita home.
The pimp Donald L. Davis, 50 was convicted by a jury of rape and human trafficking and is serving a life sentence at the El Dorado Correctional Facility. Cochran, 56, pleaded no contest in March to three counts of rape. Both men were charged under Kansas version of Jessicas Law, which carries a life sentence for those who have sex with children under 15.
Cochrans lawyer, Mark Schoenhofer, argued in court that the law wasnt written for people like Cochran.
He is not a predator preying on children, he said. Hes a consummate loner whos calling escort services.
Schoenhofer asked District Judge Jeff Syrios to depart from Jessicas Law and impose a fixed prison term instead of a life sentence. For Cochran, who has no prior felony convictions, that still would amount to more than 13 years in prison. Schoenhofer also asked for a second departure that would cut Cochrans sentence in half. He asked that any sentences imposed on the three rape counts be imposed concurrently.
Assistant District Attorney Shannon Wilson said the state agreed with the first departure, in part because Cochrans plea meant the victim would not have to testify at his trial. But Wilson opposed the second departure, and she asked that the sentences on the three rape counts be run consecutively.
The bottom line is the Legislature views these crimes very, very severely, as it should, she said.
Cochran testified briefly at the hearing. He said he met the girl after calling an escort service that he saw advertised in the Prospector newspaper. After the service brought the girl to his house the first time, he said, he asked the girls age. She said, 18 or 19.
Were you surprised when you found out she was 13? Schoenhofer asked.
I was flabbergasted, Cochran said. I was devastated.
Because Im not that type. I wouldnt do that.
Did you have any indication at all that the girl was illegal?
At the end of the hearing, Syrios agreed to depart from the life prison term, but he said he could find no legal reason for granting a second departure. He said he had to follow the law as it was written by the Kansas Legislature.
Syrios also ruled that Cochran would have to serve his three sentences consecutively. The total sentence was 27 years and eight months in prison.
This 13-year-old is a victim of manipulation, he told Cochran at the close of the hearing, and you were a part of that, sir.