Marshall County Prosecuting Attorney Nelson Chipman, serving as a Special Prosecutor for Starke County, announced Tuesday that Oscar Cowen, former Starke County Sheriff, pled guilty and was sentenced for the offense of Invasion of Privacy. Cowen pled guilty pursuant to a plea agreement negotiated between Chipman and Cowen’s attorney, Richard Ballard of Knox. The plea agreement, approved by Judge Patrick Blakenship of the Pulaski Superior Court, but serving as Special Judge of the Starke Circuit Court, provided that Cowen would plead guilty to Count I of the Information filed against him charging Invasion of Privacy, a Class A misdemeanor. Pursuant to the agreement, the State dismissed Count II of the Information charging Battery, a Class B misdemeanor.
The agreed upon sentence imposed by Judge Blakenship was one year imprisonment in the Starke County Jail, all of which was suspended. Cowen was placed on one year of non-reporting probation with the usual and customary terms of non-reporting probation, and with an additional term that Cowen shall obey the previously issued Protective Order by the Starke Circuit Court. In addition, Cowen was fined twenty-five dollars and court costs.
The case began on March 18, 2015, when Cowen traveled to his former wife’s place of employment in Hamlet and demanded she execute a federal income tax form for which she was not obligated. Witnesses reported Cowen grew angry when she refused and wadded up the paperwork and rudely threw it striking her in the face and throat. Police were called and the incident resulted in a lock down of the place of employment for an extended period of time, causing substantial inconvenience to other employees, patients, and the organization.
Chipman emphasized that, “traveling to his former wife’s place of employment was a specific and direct violation of the protective order previously issued by a court of law.” Chipman added, “ There is no doubt Mr. Cowen knew his actions by going to her place of employment was a violation of the court order. He himself predicted before he went there that this would not go well.”
Chipman acknowledged the terms of the plea agreement, and particularly the suspended sentence reflects primarily Mr. Cowen’s willingness to accept responsibility for the transgression. “But at the same time, it is critically important that the citizens of Starke County know no one is above the law, and that protective orders issued by the courts mean what they say, and will be enforced with criminal prosecution regardless of the position of the person who violates the order.”