After Outlaws Motorcycle Club boss Orville “Orvie” Cochran survived a shooting outside the biker gang’s South Side clubhouse in 2000 — he slipped on some ice and fell, thus avoiding a hail of bullets — a former friend described him as “- – – damn lucky.”
Cochran’s luck still hasn’t run out.
Arrested in 2017 after being on the run for 16 years to avoid racketeering charges, he caught a break on his sentence. And now — after contracting the coronavirus in prison — Cochran has gotten a federal judge to free him from prison six months early.
The judge ordered a “compassionate” release for Cochran, who had asked for that even before getting infected because, he said, he was afraid he would and had health problems that could make COVID especially dangerous for him.
His release came despite prosecutors’ objections. They argued Cochran already had gotten off relatively easy by getting a sentence of only five years in prison after “admitting that he conspired to assault and murder rival bikers at two public biker events.”
Since a judge ordered his release last month, this onetime junkyard dog of Chicago’s biker underworld is living in a South Side building that’s also home to a dog-grooming business run by his longtime significant other — described in court records alternately as his wife or girlfriend. She declined to clear that up for a reporter.
Court records indicated doggie spa duties could be in Cochran’s future. But she wouldn’t confirm that, either.
“All I can say is he was released, he did his time, he did his percentage of federal time,” the woman said, speaking on the condition she not be identified by name. “He is living with me, and he’s not currently working. He has some health issues.”
She said that, as a condition of his early release, Cochran’s not allowed to associate with anyone from the Outlaws — which federal authorities have described as a criminal enterprise involved in drug-dealing, violence and mayhem.
“No clubs . . . no Outlaws, no nothing,” she said. “He wants to get on with his life.”
She said Cochran, 71, didn’t want to speak with a reporter and that “I don’t know what his plans are.”
In the 1990s, Cochran was a feared leader of the Outlaws’ South Side chapter, the “mother chapter” of an organization founded in McCook in the 1930s that now claims members around the country and overseas.
Back then, the Outlaws were obsessed with preventing the rival Hells Angels Motorcycle Club from moving into Outlaws territory — Chicago. A bloody “war” between the two Harley-riding groups ensued, with shootings, threats and bombings — and criminal charges against a number of club members that prompted Cochran to go on the lam.
Cochran was arrested in 2017 in Evergreen Park — for shoplifting a back brace from a Meijer store — and subsequently convicted and sent to prison in the 2001 racketeering case.
While serving a five-year sentence at a federal prison hospital in Rochester, Minnesota, Cochran wrote to the warden in April 2020 to apply for early release. He cited health problems and his fear that, if he got COVID, he wouldn’t be able to cheat death one more time.
“Since I have been incarcerated, I have received the following medical treatment: hospital stay for four days in Chicago, IL, hospital stay at Dodge County, WI, both for irregular heart beat,” Cochran wrote. “High blood pressure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, pre-diabetes, depression and anxiety, constipation, blood clots, fluid reduction, pain disorder, panic attacks, low mood disorder.”
“My current physical and mental health problems include: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease with constant phlegm discharge, pre-diabetes, high blood pressure, irregular heart beat, abdominal scar tissue that causes pain when touched, advanced age that has caused chronic back, hip, knee and shoulder pain: eye floaters, leg spasms, depression and anxiety.”
He listed 10 medications he was taking and told the warden: “I believe that I am at very high risk of complications if in contact with COVID-19 because the heart and lungs are the two most dangerous conditions to have with COVID-19.”
Referring to an article in Science News, he also wrote that he had “trouble breathing, sometimes, and shortness of breath and a chronic heart problem. . . . Because of my age and health, there is a real specter of me dying if I [contract] COVID-19.”
But the warden decided Cochran didn’t meet the criteria and last June denied him early release. He told him then that, if his “health deteriorates, you can certainly resubmit your request,” records show.
In January, Cochran filed an early-release motion with a judge, saying he contracted coronavirus in October and that his symptoms included “gastrointestinal complaints, headache, shortness of breath, loss of sense of taste.”
“Thankfully he recovered,” his lawyer said in a court filing. “It is unknown whether COVID will have lasting effects.”
Cochran had been slated for release from prison this coming Aug. 22. His lawyer argued that, with “just seven months to go . . . there is no reason for the court to think that he needs to remain incarcerated . . . to deter further criminal conduct, protect the public, or rehabilitate Cochran.”
Prosecutors objected on several grounds, including pointing to “the nature and circumstances of his offense and the need for his sentence to reflect the seriousness of the offense.”
“Cochran was charged with RICO conspiracy, drug trafficking and arson by explosives, all offenses connected with his membership in the Outlaws Motorcycle Club,” prosecutors wrote in February. “He pled guilty to the single charge of RICO conspiracy, specifically admitting that he conspired to assault and murder rival bikers at two public biker events, one in Schererville, Indiana on June 26, 1994, and the other in Morocco, Indiana on June 6, 1996.”
“These were not isolated incidents but rather were part of a long running violent and bloody gang war between the Outlaws and the Outlaws’ main adversary,” they wrote. “Also relevant to Cochran’s character are the years that he spent as a fugitive. While his co-actors faced the consequences of their criminal conduct, Cochran spent 16 years flying below law enforcement radar apparently splitting his time between Arizona and Chicago. While others were convicted and sent to prison, Cochran spent his younger years as a free man.”
Prosecutors also pointed out that, based on the circumstances of the crime he was convicted of, the normal sentencing range was between 87 and 108 months.
“Considering his age and claim of serious health issues, in negotiating a plea agreement, the government agreed to a joint recommendation of a below guideline sentence of 60 months,” they wrote. “In joining that agreement, Cochran also agreed that any sentence below 60 months was unreasonable.”
But U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman, who’s based in Milwaukee, on March 3 ordered his release under the federal First Step Act of 2018 — which was passed with bipartisan support and signed by President Donald Trump.
The law was touted as a way to try to make up for past sentencing disparities for federal drug crimes by allowing prisoners to ask that their sentences be shortened. It also lets elderly and sick inmates seek compassionate early releases.
Adelman wrote of Cochran’s crime that this was “the only felony he has ever been convicted of, and it occurred more than two decades ago. Given his age, there is no reason for the court to be concerned about his future behavior.”
Also, the “defendant indicates that he has a solid release plan, living with his long-term girlfriend in Chicago,” according to the judge, who ordered Cochran’s prison sentence be “reduced to time served.”
Cochran’s Evergreen Park shoplifting case was recently thrown out by another judge, police said.
The Cook County sheriff’s police has said it still considers Cochran a suspect in the unsolved 1999 killing of another Outlaws member, Thomas “West Side Tommy” Stimac, in Lemont Township.
Authorities believe that the 2000 shooting outside the Outlaws’ South Side clubhouse at 25th and Rockwell streets that left Cochran wounded was intended as payback for Stimac’s killing.