traveled the world as a military officer and do-gooder who co-founded StandUp for Kids, a non-profit homeless-youth charity. But what, exactly, did he do?
Last Friday, 71-year-old Koca was convicted on 22 counts of sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust. The trial was in Arapahoe County; Koca was arrested last September 15 on allegations that he'd repeatedly assaulted a boy under his supervision in Aurora, and that victim made a convincing witness at trial.
As Deputy DA Cara Moran, who tried the case, said in a statement:
For more than three years, the victim kept silent regarding the repeated and ongoing sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of the defendant. The strength and courage this child demonstrated in not only coming forward and reporting the abuse, but in facing his abuser during trial is remarkable. He and his family placed their faith in the system to achieve justice and hold the Defendant responsible for his actions, and the verdict today is proof that justice has prevailed.
Prior to his StandUp For Kids work, Koca spent thirty years in the military, where he was stationed in or visited a wide array of locations in the U.S., plus Panama, Venezuela, Italy and England. In this country, he was a Scout Master for a Boy Scouts of America program, and he volunteered in an orphanage while spending time in England. He was also part of Explorer scout programs in San Diego.
So although Koca's arrest on September 15 came as a surprise -- the investigation had started just a month before -- the Aurora Police Department's announcement that it was looking for additional victims, given Koca's "extensive contact over the past several decades with persons under the age of eighteen through his work with several nonprofit organizations that primarily serve children," was not.
StandUp For Kids, founded in 1990, sends outreach counselors into the street in an effort to assist homeless youth. Koca was on the board of the organization until two days after his arrest last September; at the time, the Atlanta-based StandUp for Kids had branches in 37 cities. Here's the story on the group's founding that was on the StandUp for Kids website last fall:
Mr. Koca is a retired naval officer. Rick joined the Navy at the age of 17, and during the next 30 years was promoted 13 times through 17 pay grades. A highly decorated naval officer, Rick was awarded the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, two Joint Service Commendation Medals, two Navy Commendation Medals, three Navy Achievement Medals, as well as numerous service awards and commendations.
In 1990, with the help of several friends, STANDUP FOR KIDS outreach counselors began walking the streets touching base with the street kids. Now, more than twelve years later, STANDUP FOR KIDS has grown to more than twenty-eight programs in thirteen states.
Now, after more than thirteen years of walking the streets, he can't think of a place that he would rather be. There have been many times when he just wanted to turn his back on it all. He thought it would help relieve the pain he was seeing in the kids on the streets. The pain of his first street kid who said he was HIV positive, the first 12-year-old living in a dumpster, his first youth heroin addict, a 13-year-old prostitute, the first baby living in a cave, and his first 17-year-old who died as a result of AIDS.
Rick said, "this isn't about money, it's about caring!" "What we've accomplished has no price tag. We know we've made the difference in the lives of thousands of kids, I would have paid that price for one"!
Now, this nationally acclaimed program has been recognized on three separate occasions by the White House, the U.S. Justice Department, American Express, the Governor's Office in Arizona twice, the Secretary of State of Colorado, and awarded the prestigious JCPenney Golden Rule Award. Rick has been awarded the George Washington Honor Award for his work with homeless and street kids; the Channel 10 Leadership Award, and was recognized as a finalist for the Edward A. Smith Award for Excellence in Nonprofit Leadership. Rick lives in San Diego and has 3 children and 7 grandchildren in Denver, Colorado.
Today you won't find any reference to Koca on the StandUp for Kids website, but you'll find plenty about Koca on the web. For example, there's a Rick Koca is Innocent Facebook page, which posted this message on July 12, after the verdict came in:
I'm going to keep this page up for now, at the request of a couple of the family members. The first time people start getting nasty, it's coming down.
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Koca will be sentenced on September 19; he's facing at least eight years in prison.