By Robert Herguth-Chicago Sun Times
In his 16 years on the run, there were stories going around that former Chicago Outlaws Motorcycle Club boss Orville “Orvie” Cochran was living the good life, flush with cash from crime and hidden by a network of sympathizers of the notorious biker club.
But Cochran’s time on the lam actually was kind of bleak, as his lawyer described it in a court filing that offers the first glimpse into what Cochran was up to from the time he took off in 2001 until his capture in 2017 — when he got busted for shoplifting a back brace from a Meijer store in Evergreen Park.
“During these long years separated from anyone who ever knew or cared about him, he managed to get by doing landscaping, home repair or any kind of fix-it work that might generate some cash and maybe a bed to sleep in,” attorney John W. Campion wrote to a judge before Cochran was sentenced in 2019 to five years in federal prison.
“He spent his time in the Chicago area during warmer months and then in Arizona during winters. During those years he received no medical treatment or monitoring, and his health deteriorated. Toward the end of this terrible time, he often needed to lay flat for long periods to try to calm his racing, arrhythmic heart.”
“For 16 years he had no contact” with his fiancée or “his mother, who died shortly after he ran, or his ex-wife and three children,” Campion wrote. “He feared that any contact would put those people in peril and could get him caught. During this time, his two sons would also die.”
Now 70 and being held at a federal prison hospital in Rochester, Minnesota, that isn’t allowing interviews with inmates because of the coronavirus pandemic, Cochran believes his arrest “was about the best thing that could happen to him,” his lawyer wrote. “He suspects he may not have lived much longer without medical intervention.”
Beside heart problems, he was treated after his arrest for “depression and anxiety” and had other medical issues including a hernia, “high blood pressure, acid reflux, chronic back pain, tinnitus, bursitis, blood clots, bronchitis,” according to court records.
Exactly where he spent his time on the lam isn’t spelled out in the court records. Nor is whether Cochran, who pleaded guilty, cooperated with authorities.
Campion wouldn’t comment.
Cochran’s fiancée, who lives on the South Side and asked not to be named, said, “Nobody knows what he was doing . . . and nobody really cares.”
She said she had been talking regularly with Cochran by phone after his arrest but that the pandemic changed that. Now, “there’s absolutely no communication,” she said.
He had taken off in response to a racketeering indictment in 2001.
“Cochran saw what he thought was writing on the wall,” his lawyer wrote. “He panicked and fled.”
Cochran and five other Outlaws were charged in the case, which accused members of the motorcycle club in Illinois and Wisconsin of involvement in the 1990s in bombings, drug dealing and the killings of two members of the rival Hells Angels Motorcycle Club.
Cochran’s co-defendants all were convicted and have served their prison sentences.
Cochran pleaded guilty in 2018 to conspiracy to assault and murder rival bikers, and prosecutors dropped the other charges against him.
Cochran could have faced a sentence of as much 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. But his lawyers and federal prosecutors in Milwaukee, where the case was handled, agreed to recommend no fine and 60 months in prison, and that’s the sentence a judge imposed last year.
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The U.S. attorney’s office didn’t return calls.
In his filing with the judge in the case in which he cited “Cochran’s difficult and lost years on the run,” Campion also wrote, “This joint recommendation is the product of much back-and-forth discussion between Cochran and his counsel and a team of lawyers from the United States attorney’s office” that “produced an agreement that obviated the need for a trial and its attendant significant consumption of resources on all sides.”
Cochran’s lawyer wrote that the former biker boss actually had left the Outlaws a year before his indictment. And court records indicate Cochran has no plans to return to the biker club lifestyle, known for crime, partying, brawling and open-road trips on Harley-Davidsons.
His time with the Outlaws is “long over with,” Campion wrote.
He also offered some history, explaining how Cochran got involved with the Outlaws: “He joined the club in the late 1980s after he found himself unmoored and approaching his 40s. He had just gotten divorced after 17 years of marriage. And somewhat peevishly, he had quit a good job.”
The Outlaws “had always been a presence in his life in the southwest Chicago suburbs. His brother, 10 years older, had many OMC friends who often came to the house when Cochran was a teenager. To a young Orville Cochran, these larger-than-life figures seemed to ride the best bikes, draw the most respect, get the attention from the prettiest girls and live the high life.
“Adrift and entering his middle ages, he reached out for that childhood image and probated with the Southside Chapter. He was soon a member, and his world changed.”
In time, he came to run the Outlaws’ South Side chapter — the club has affiliates around the world, but the South Side chapter is considered the original.
The early years with the Outlaws were “a self-indulgent ride on the OMC patch of partying and camaraderie, often living for free,” Campion wrote.
But in the 1990s, Campion wrote, “with the national struggle for territory and power between OMC and the Hells Angels growing . . . things went to the dark side.”
In a separate letter from Cochran to the judge, he wrote that “personally I did not hurt anyone,” though he said, “I was with people who did, and for that I do sincerely apologize, for all the anguish it cause the victims and their families.”
Beyond the federal case, the Cook County sheriff’s police consider Cochran a suspect in the unsolved 1999 killing of another Outlaws member, Thomas “West Side Tommy” Stimac, in Lemont Township. Investigators tried to question him after his 2017 arrest to no avail.
In his letter, Cochran said his religious faith played a part in his leadership of the Outlaws.
“My strong Catholic upbringing carried over as my time as president of the south side Chicago chapter. Everyone had to have a legitimate job, if you did not, I would get you one. This was not a chapter to further one’s criminal career.”
Cochran told the judge he planned to study and read while in prison, from which it’s likely he’ll be released next year.
“If prison is my fate I will continue my education,” he wrote. “For I am a ferocious reader and my hobby is studying the natural sciences of applied physics and geology, in my leisure time. However I will prioritize accounting and marketing. This to ensure my fiancée has a competitive edge with her business” — grooming dogs — “that she started in my absence.”