WILMINGTON, Del. – A former pastor is due to stand trial in federal civil court this week, facing allegations he raped and sexually trafficked his then pre-teen daughter in Delaware and elsewhere.
Two years ago, Alicia Cohen brought a lawsuit against Ron Cohen, her father, claiming that while he was building a reputation and a business as a holy man in Delaware, he was using his Church Miracle Tabernacle in the Newark area as a front to sell his pre-teen. body to other men and filmed and sold the footage.
Since then, the case has proceeded in court and is scheduled for a jury trial Monday in Wilmington which may include testimony from both Cohens.
In court records and in a 2019 telephone interview, Ron Cohen, who lived and ran a ministry in North Carolina at the time, said the allegations in the lawsuit were false, defamed him and that he was not responsible for damages.
Christofer C. Johnson, lawyer for Ron Cohen in Delaware and city councilor for Wilmington, did not respond to an email seeking comment on the story.
After hearing testimony for several days, the jury will be asked to return several verdicts based on whether they believe Ron Cohen has violated a host of federal and state laws relating to rape, sex trafficking and exploitation.
The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages. Ron Cohen has not been charged with any criminal offense.
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The jury will also be asked whether the court should ban Ron Cohen, who also goes by names Rafi and Ronald, from playing a role in organizations serving children, including orphanages, churches and children’s ministries.
In a 2019 written statement, Alicia Cohen’s lawyer said she wanted her story told so that others who may have been victimized by her father have a voice.
She allowed USA TODAY Network to use her name and post a photo of her showing her at the age she claims to have been raped.
Alicia Cohen’s lawsuit indicates that the abuse began in 1983, about seven years after Ron Cohen arrived in Delaware. The Cohens eventually settled in a house in the Deacon’s Walk neighborhood of Pike Creek, where most of the abuse took place, the lawsuit says.
Allegations in the lawsuit against Ron Cohen include that he had set up a fake bedroom in the basement of the house where he would film himself and others raping his daughter as well as her sex with other children.
He allowed her to be raped by men he did business with, church associates and others, according to court documents. He would sell videos depicting his rape alongside videos from his ministry, according to the lawsuit.
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The abuse ended when she started having her period, but threats to keep her silent continued, according to the lawsuit.
Alicia Cohen was injured in seventh grade, was suicidal in college and thought about killing herself for the next 20 years, according to the lawsuit. Her lawyers argued that she deserved compensation for the mental anguish that the lawsuit claims were caused by the alleged abuse.
It is likely that when she raises the allegations will be the subject of legal arguments at trial. Alicia Cohen hasn’t opened up about her abuse for years, and she’s suppressed memories in her 30s, court documents show.
Part of Ron Cohen’s pre-trial defense strategy was to question the idea that such memories can be suppressed.
Basically, a therapist suggested, ‘Did you think this has happened or has happened before? Ron Cohen said during his 2019 phone call with the USA TODAY Network.
At the time, Dan Stephenson, Alicia Cohen’s lawyer, said that “the verifiable level of detail” showed that his client’s memories could not have been “fabricated in counseling.” Before the trial, he declined to comment on this story.
Much of the pre-trial briefing focused on the medical and psychological experts who should be allowed to testify at trial and the validity of the repression of memory.
Experts have argued that suppressing memories is a common way for victims of child sexual abuse to cope with anxiety, depression and other negative effects of sexual abuse among young people. and it often takes decades for people to come to terms with this abuse.
In court records, lawyers for Ron Cohen have sought to label this as bad science.
Pre-trial briefings by Ron Cohen’s attorneys also sought to prevent opposing attorneys from branding Ron Cohen a liar, who uses false claims about spirituality to earn money.
Contact Xerxes Wilson at (302) 324-2787 or xwilson @ delawareon