Prominent Musician Charles Cohen Charged in Child Sex Case

He was arrested in Montgomery County.

Charles Cohen in his Upper Providence Township mugshot.

Charles Cohen in his Upper Providence Township mugshot.

UPDATE 8/16/2016: Charles Cohen has pleaded no contest and is awaiting sentencing. For the full story, go here.


In avant garde music circles, Philadelphia musician Charles Cohen is something of a legend, the rare master of a synthesizer called the Buchla Music Easel. In 2011, he was named a Pew Fellow for his talent. But now, Cohen’s legacy is in question after a troubling arrest in Montgomery County.

Cohen, who turned 70 on Friday, was arrested by Upper Providence Township Police on September 28th and charged with criminal attempt of involuntary deviant sexual intercourse with a child under the age of 16, unlawful contact with a minor and criminal use of a communication facility. Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman announced the charges on Friday.

The arrest was part of an undercover sting operation. According to police, Cohen placed a personal ad on Craigslist looking for a “skinny smooth versatile white guy” for sex, and someone claiming to be a 14-year-old boy responded to that ad. But that person was actually Detective Sergeant Raymond Bechtel III, who was working in cooperation with the Pennsylvania Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

Cohen allegedly told the undercover detective that his name was Charles, that he lived on 21st Street (he does), and that he was a jazz musician about to go on tour. (He was: a London performance for October 7th was cancelled, and he has upcoming dates scheduled elsewhere in Europe.)

Then on September 28th, according to prosecutors, Cohen asked to meet the supposed 14-year-old boy. Police say that the stated purpose for this meeting was for the boy to perform oral sex on Cohen and for Cohen to do the same to him.

A meeting was allegedly set: Cohen would meet the boy around 12:30 p.m. that day at 600 Commerce Drive in Upper Providence Township, in the same complex as a Wegmans, Olive Garden and Starbucks. Police say that Cohen showed up on cue, and he was arrested. According to police, the arresting officers recovered a cell phone from Cohen and saw the last message sent from the undercover detective.

Cohen is in Montgomery County Prison, unable to post the $100,000 bail set by Magisterial District Judge Katherine McGill. He is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on October 13th.

Cohen began playing the Buchla Music Easel in 1976. He has been featured in numerous music publications as well as in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Two years ago, he graced the cover of the just-shuttered City Paper.

Here is a video of Cohen on the Buchla Music Easel:

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