Charles L. Cohen, a prominent Center City musician who attempted to have oral sex with an undercover officer posing as a 14-year-old boy on Craiglist, has been sentenced to six-23 months in county jail.
During a Feb. 3 hearing, Cohen requested probation rather than jail time. He said his conduct was an "aberration" that won't happen again.
But Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Gail A. Weilheimer said jail time is necessary — not because Cohen wanted to engage in gay sex, but because he wanted to engage in sex with a minor.
Weilheimer said she has an openly gay staffer and she's sensitive to the plight of the LGBT community. But she said she draws the line at sexual contact with minors.
Weilheimer said Cohen, 71, must report to the Montgomery County Correctional Facility in Eagleville by 6 p.m. March 3 to begin serving his sentence.
At the time of the incident, Cohen was on a medication known as Mirapex to treat his Parkinson's Disease, which he said contributes to sexual compulsivity.
"It was an aberration, a complete aberration," Cohen told the judge. "I've never had any interest in children."
Cohen said he no longer takes Mirapex. "I know nothing like this will happen again," Cohen added.
Tyler Weaver, a close friend of Cohen, told the judge that Cohen isn't a threat to society.
"I have only positive things to say about him," said Weaver, 34. "He's the most non-threatening person I've met in my entire life. That's why I gravitated to him."
Weaver said many people in the music world were "shocked" when they heard about Cohen arrest, because the nature of the crime was so contrary to Cohen's nature.
"Everyone I know was shocked and had a hard time believing it," Weaver noted.
In September 2015, Cohen was nabbed by police at an Upper Providence shopping center, where they said he sought to meet a boy and have oral sex. Last summer, Cohen pleaded no contest to multiple sex crimes and faced up to 43 years in state prison.
At the Feb. 3 hearing, prosecutor Sophia G. Polites asked that Cohen serve between four-five years in state prison. She said Cohen sent detailed, sexually explicit emails to an undercover officer, demonstrating that he intended to engage in sex with a minor.
"We're not disputing Mr. Cohen's accomplishments [as a musician]," Polites told Weilheimer. "But what he did was wrong. He believed he was going to engage in sexual contact with a 14-year-old boy."
Polites also said Cohen shouldn't avoid incarceration due to his Parkinson's Disease. She said a court filing indicates that Cohen hopes to participate in future concert tours throughout the world.
"If he's healthy enough to do that, I believe it would be appropriate for him to be incarcerated, as well," Polites added.
Scott A. Harper, an attorney for Cohen, said Cohen would limit his future concerts to the Philadelphia region, if he's healthy enough to perform.
"The music that he can provide makes people happy," Harper told the judge. "He's not a criminal deviant. He's not going to get into trouble again."
Weilheimer said she recognized that Cohen is an accomplished musician, and that he has no prior offenses. But she reiterated that sexual contact with a minor can't be countenanced.
Even if Mirapex contributes to sexual compulsivity, there's no evidence that it causes someone to be interested in sex with a minor, Weilheimer added.
Outside the courtroom, Polites had no criticism of Weilheimer's sentence. "We respect the court's decision," she said.
Though Cohen wasn't sentenced to a state-prison term, he'll still be under court-ordered supervision for about for years, Polites noted.
And as a convicted sex offender, Cohen must register with the Pennsylvania State Police every three months for the rest of his life, Polites added.
Harper, the attorney for Cohen, issued this statement: "Mr. Cohen accepts today's sentence as an adequate punishment and payment to the debt he owes society. He appreciates all of his friends and associates that have stood by him through this ordeal."