Rapist sentenced to up to 25 years after pleading guilty to multiple charges
PITTSFIELD — One of Eric Cohen's rape victims turned toward him in court Tuesday morning and told him, "I will forgive when I am ready to forgive."
That woman, now 34, told Judge John Agostini, Cohen could not be rehabilitated.
"He's been given too many chances to change," she said. "He's incapable."
Cohen's assaults on that woman began when she was about 11 years old.
"I get a little bit stronger every day, because (Cohen) is where he needs to be," she said.
"He did not and will not defeat me."
Cohen, 57, was sentenced to up to 25 years in prison after pleading guilty to 14 sexual assault charges involving three different victims, dating back to the early 1990s.
A second victim, who was assaulted by Cohen beginning when she was 15, also addressed the court.
"I didn't have the childhood I should have had," she said.
"It was never my fault. It was Eric's."
Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Rachael Eramo described the abuses as "chronic," occurring once or twice a week in some cases.
Eramo said because the abuses happened so often and over such extended periods of time, the total number of incidents could be in the hundreds.
A third victim was unable to attend the sentencing hearing in Berkshire Superior Court, but submitted a statement, which was read into the record by Eramo.
That victim, now 51, was assaulted by Cohen in 2003 while she was a patient at the North Adams Regional Hospital while he was employed as a certified nursing assistant.
Cohen admitted to assaulting her under her hospital clothes on two occasions while administering a heating pad on her abdomen to relieve pancreatitis symptoms.
"(Cohen) does not deserve to be a member of society," she wrote in a statement read aloud in court by Eramo.
In her statement, the woman said Cohen had "Taken her whole life from her," and still endures nightmares and undergoes counseling as a result of his assaults.
Those allegations came to light during the investigation into his other attacks.
"This deserves a life sentence," said Agostini.
Considering Cohen's age, Agostini said the 20 to 25 years would effectively be giving him that life sentence.
Agostini said if he were to deviate from the state's recommended sentence, it would have been in favor of more prison time.
That would, however, have allowed Cohen the opportunity to withdraw his guilty pleas and take the three cases to trial; a situation Agostini was reluctant to create.
Agostini called Cohen's crimes "despicable," and "horrific."
Cohen pleaded guilty last week to a dozen charges connected to the assaults on the children and pleaded guilty Tuesday to two counts of rape in connection with the hospital assaults prior to his sentencing in all three cases.
As the investigation continued, more information came to light, Eramo said and compared it to peeling back the layers of an onion.
Investigators kept "finding worse and worse things (Cohen's) done," Eramo said.
Eramo said Cohen was supposed to be a figure of trust and authority to his victims.
"Instead, he was the predator," she said.
"I don't know how it couldn't be seen as cruel," she said.
Cohen's attorney David Pixley asked Agostini to consider a sentence of 13 to 18 years in prison.
Pixley said that sentence would satisfy the 10-year mandatory minimum sentence he was already facing and would allow ample time for counseling and therapy while incarcerated.
Pixley said then it would be up to the parole board to determine if he's ready for release and would still be subjected to evaluation to determine if he would be considered a sexually dangerous person and subject to possible commitment following release.
Pixley said Cohen was pleading guilty in order to take responsibility for his actions rather than subject his victims and their families to the rigors of three separate trials.
In all, Cohen pleaded guilty to four counts each of rape and abuse of a child aggravated by age difference and rape of a child with force, two counts each of indecent assault and battery on a child under 14 and rape and one count each of indecent assault and battery on a child under 14 and assault with the intent to commit rape upon a child.
He will serve his sentence at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction. He was given credit for 911 days of time already served in custody.
The investigation was conducted by state police detectives assigned to the District Attorney's office.
Contact Bob Dunn at 413-496-6249