Former Delaware pastor to pay daughter $1.5 million in sexual abuse case

United States District Court for the District of Delaware

United States District Court for the District of Delaware (Google Maps)

A federal jury in Wilmington has found Ronald Cohen liable for sexually abusing his daughter repeatedly and continuously.

The jury ruled against Cohen on five out of 14 charges in the civil lawsuit filed by his daughter in 2019. Their verdict also orders Cohen to pay $1.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

In her lawsuit, Alicia Cohen alleged that her father repeatedly sexually abused her between the ages of 3 and 11, and that he profited from a child pornography and sex trafficking ring using images of her abuse.

The lawsuit claims he posed as a minister, using various ministries to cover up the alleged crimes that took place in his Newark home and in other states. Ronald Cohen has since moved to North Carolina.

WHYY News does not typically publish rape victims’ names. However, Alicia Cohen wanted to go public with her story to empower sex trafficking survivors, said her attorney Dan Stephenson.

Alicia Cohen said she was “overwhelmed” following the verdict in an emailed statement to WHYY. 

“I think that justice in our country has a long way to go when it comes to sexual violence against children, but I feel this is a step in the right direction,” she said.

Stephenson said the lawsuit was originally filed to empower other women and hold those who commit abuse accountable. 

“She brings it to stop him from ever doing it again to other children. She brings it to help in her own healing process, which will continue for the rest of her life,” Stephenson said in the lawsuit. “She brings it to support other victims and survivors of child sexual abuse and human trafficking — to help empower them, encourage them to come forward, and let them know they have a voice. She brings it as a message to other exploiters and human traffickers: you will not get away with it; you will pay for your crimes.”

The lawsuit explained that Alicia Cohen repressed memories of the abuse for years as a coping mechanism. She started having flashbacks around 2013 and worked with psychologists to help reclaim her memory.

While the jury found Ronald Cohen liable under Delaware law for sexual abuse of a minor and other counts, they cleared him on other charges, including human trafficking. 

He is expected to appeal the verdict.

Cohen has not faced criminal charges related to the accusations. Stephenson told the Wilmington News Journal in 2019 that law enforcement was notified of the abuse by the lawsuit.

When asked whether Cohen would be criminally charged for the allegations made in his daughter’s lawsuit, officials in Attorney General Kathy Jennings office wouldn’t say. They say they don’t ever comment on whether they intend to charge a suspect or even if they could charge a suspect with any crime until prosecutors actually move to indict someone.

They also point out that the burden of proof for a civil case like this lawsuit is much lower than in a criminal case brought by the AG’s office.

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