A Platte City high school student has been sentenced to eight years in prison for the rape of a 14-year-old girl in March.
Dakota D. Cochran, 17, pleaded guilty Thursday in Platte County Circuit Court to charges of rape and child molestation. He was sentenced the same day.
Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd announced the outcome of the case in a written statement in which he castigated other high school students who reportedly harassed the girl and anyone who supported her while the case was pending.
“To those young men who berated the victim, I say this: Your actions have caused additional harm to the victim of a despicable crime.” Zahnd said in the statement. “This is an opportunity for self-reflection and improvement. We cannot tolerate a culture that blames rape victims.”
The girl was identified in court documents as M.H.
According to court documents, the girl was riding in Cochran’s car on March 19 when he drove her to a parking lot along the Platte River near Farley. Cochran stopped the car and raped the girl despite her protesting and repeatedly telling him no.
Cochran dropped the girl off at a friend’s house and later sent her a photo of his boxer shorts, which had blood on them.
On March 22, a Platte County sheriff’s deputy began investigating the case when the girl went to Children’s Mercy Hospital and reported that she had been raped. An examination at the hospital showed evidence of trauma consistent with sexual assault, Zahnd said.
When questioned by investigators, Cochran admitted driving the girl to the parking lot and having sex, but he said it was consensual.
If the case had gone to trial, prosecutors planned to introduce testimony that sheriff’s deputies had found three other teenage girls who said that Cochran committed unwanted sexual acts against them, Zahnd said. That would have been possible because of an amendment to the Missouri Constitution passed in November 2014 allowing evidence about prior sex crimes that were never charged.
Zahnd said that while the case was pending, another high school student harassed the girl online and accused her of lying about the rape. The girl told detectives some male students harassed anyone who supported her. The girl’s mother testified at sentencing that shortly after the case was filed, school administrators found the girl crying in a closet.
“I am incredibly proud of the victim in this case. She is a courageous young woman who stood up to her rapist by coming forward. Her courage will help protect other young women,” Zahnd said.
“I cannot say it often enough: Sex without consent is rape. Period. This defendant’s age does not excuse his crime.”
Under Missouri law, Cochran will be required to register as a sex offender.