Edmonds man pleads guilty to first-degree child molestation

Connor Jon Cowan (right) and his attorney Brad Meryhew during Cowan’s Feb. 16 sentencing hearing.

A 24-year-old Edmonds man who pleaded guilty Thursday in Snohomish County Superior Court to first-degree child molestation will serve at least 36 months of community custody, undergo psychological treatment and register as a sex offender.

After waiving his right to a jury trial, defendant Connor Jon Cowan pleaded guilty Feb. 16 to one charge during a stipulated bench trial. As part of that trial, Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Jon Scott reviewed documentation provided by the Snohomish Prosecutor’s Office, which included the defendant’s mental health and treatment compliance reports over the last two years.

Cowan was charged in September 2020 with one count each of child rape and child molestation. The crimes took place in Edmonds between 2010 and 2014, when he was still a minor.

Under the agreement, Cowan will participate in Washington’s Special Sexual Offender Sentencing Alternative (SSOSA) program, which offers offenders an alternative to a traditional prison sentence. Instead, they are allowed to serve all or part of their sentence out of custody while participating in sexual deviancy treatment.

“The SSOSA is a really deep and in-depth process,” Scott said. “This is not some ‘go to an anger management class and get a certificate’ kind of situation. This is a deep dive into the psyche of Mr. Cowan to identify those things that were root causes (for his crimes) and to address them not in a day or a week or a month but over years.”

The judge also pointed to Cowan’s age at the time of the crimes, saying that he believes the defendant outgrew the impulse that would lead him to re-offend. Additionally, Scott said Cowan had no other history of criminal behavior and seemed truly remorseful.

“There has been – on Mr. Cowan’s part – an aggressive approach to addressing the issues that cause this behavior,” he said.

Under the ruling, Cowan was sentenced to 68 months of community custody, which the judge said could be reduced to 36 months if court-stipulated conditions are met. Since Cowan committed the crimes as a juvenile, the judge also said he will also be eligible to be removed from the sex offender registry after five years as opposed to 10 years like adult offenders.

According to documents filed with the court, Cowan was accused of raping a 7-year-old boy in January 2010. At the time of the initial alleged offense, Cowan was 12 years old. Prosecutors allege that Cowan also sexually abused the boy at other times during an approximate three-year period of time.

The second victim, a girl, was allegedly molested by Cowan between April 2013 and April 2014, when she was between 11 and 12 years old and the accused was between 16 and 17.

The trial was delayed partially due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since his arraignment in September 2020, Cowan had been released on his own recognizance without bail. 

Prior to the sentencing, one of Cowan’s victims spoke to the court about his struggles to overcome the pain of the abuse. However, he also spoke about forgiveness and how he is able to work through the trauma with the support of family and loved ones. The victim also supported the court’s decision not to imprison Cowan.

“If true justice is going to occur it’s not going to come about through jail time, parole or a sex offender’s list – it’s going to come through day-in and day-out accountability,” he said.

During an emotional testimony, the victim’s father spoke about how Cowan’s actions ruined his son’s childhood and caused him to live with fear and anxiety. Reading a prepared statement, he told the courtroom that their whole family had suffered because of Cowan’s actions.

“The toll it has taken on our family is hard to calculate and the stress has been felt in every area,” he said. “We have deep grief over what this did to our family”

However, he too said that no good would come from Cowan serving jail time.

“Even with all I have spoken, I believe that punishment of prison or jail time does not help bring our kids’ childhood back and wouldn’t serve Mr. Cowan well either,” he said.

When offered a chance to speak, Cowan said he was holding back tears listening to their statements.

“I’m incredibly sorry for my actions and it deeply pains me,” he said. “The impact I have (and that) I am still having years and years later.”

Conditions of his release include that he not possess weapons and have no contact with persons under 18 years old. Additionally, two protection orders were issued, directing that Cowan have no contact with his alleged victims. Cowan will also have to pay some court fees and restitution.

— Story and photo by Cody Sexton

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