Osama bin Laden’s lawyer didn’t live in a cave in Afghanistan. Like so many terrorist lawyers, he was a New Yorker. His law office, which has seen more terrorists and their files pass through it than an Afghan cave, sits above a Muslim 99 cent store that offers discounted napkins, sandals and toasters, and is a four-minute drive away from the World Trade Center.
Stanley Cohen has never been shy about fighting what he believes in. And what he believes in is murder.
“If I don’t support the politics of political clients, I don’t take the case,” he once said. A few weeks after September 11, he said, “If Osama bin Laden arrived in the United States today and asked me to represent him, sure I’d represent him.”
Osama bin Laden never did arrive in the United States, though perhaps one day pieces of him will wash up on a California beach, and his wannabe lawyer had to settle for representing his son-in-law, who, after September 11, had appeared in a video threatening that “the storm of planes will not stop.”
Neither Stanley Cohen nor his client were able to make good on their threats. And in a twist, Stanley Cohen may end up with a prison sentence before the Al Qaeda spokesman whom he represents.
Al Capone didn’t go down for any of the murders he committed. Instead he was put away for tax fraud. Now Stanley Cohen faces a maximum of twenty-five years locked away in prison with the terrorists, murderers and rapists whom he has spent a lifetime defending both in and out of court.
Like so many leftists, Cohen began as a community organizer. Then he joined forces with another terrorist lawyer, Lynne Stewart, to defend Kathy Boudin, a member of the Weather Underground. Stewart was put away for passing messages from the Blind Sheikh, the leader of a Muslim Brotherhood splinter group, whose followers carried out the World Trade Center bombing and plotted further attacks.
Cohen became Stewart’s lawyer but couldn’t save his partner from a ten-year jail sentence for providing material support to terrorists. Now he may end up joining her behind bars.
Stanley Cohen was eager to be depicted as an honorary terrorist, showing off photos with Hamas leaders and boasting about his close connections to the mass murderers. Like a mob lawyer who imagines that defending goombahs makes him one, Stanley Cohen liked to pretend that he was one of the Hamas gang, defending suicide bombings and bragging about his bodyguards and reception in Gaza.
Cohen didn’t just defend Muslim terrorists. He advocated their views loudly and vehemently. He befriended them and then he tried to live like them.
In 1981, Kathy Boudin and other May 19th Communist Organization members had participated in the Brinks bank robbery, stealing $1.6 million and murdering two police officers and one guard. Stanley Cohen conducted his own private robbery by not reporting over $3 million in income over 5 years. It was a more successful robbery than Boudin pulled off. But like Kathy, Stanley eventually also got caught.
Last year, Stanley Cohen had been indicted for evading taxes on a mere $10,000. Now the total has passed $3 million and may still keep climbing as investigators pore through his financial shenanigans.
The indictment reveals Cohen’s utterly brazen disregard for the law. While taking in over $500,000 a year, he filed tax extensions, but did not file a tax return from 2005 to 2010. Instead he told clients to pay him in cash or wire money to his American Express card. He kept money in a safety deposit box near his other home in Jeffersonville, a mostly white village in upstate New York that is a far cry from his showy radical multicultural digs in the East Village.
Stanley Cohen’s massive defrauding of both the United States government and the State of New York began to collapse when he was charged last year with taking two cash payments of $20,000 from one client and $15,000 in Canadian money from another client. Before too long, investigators realized that these two incidents were not aberrations, but the usual way he did business.
As he has done all his life, Stanley Cohen played the victim while fulminating about government conspiracies. “Five years of this WITCH HUNT has produced this BOGUS charge,” Cohen shrieked after the original indictment and asked his supporters for donations. The post office box for his defense fund mysteriously goes to yet another small upstate New York village.
In response to the latest charges, Stanley Cohen declared, “It is no accident that one who has successfully defended the leadership of Hamas here and abroad, who has advocated on behalf of the members of Hezbollah and other liberation and anarchist and free speech movements… would find himself charged by the US government.”
“I am certain that they will result in a not guilty verdict,” Cohen added. A decade ago, he had told an interviewer, “I’ve been arrested on a good number of occasions ….but, as we say, inshallah” – Allah willing – “my record is perfect.”
It’s not perfect anymore. But the real question may be why did he think that he could get away with it?
Stanley Cohen spent so much time thwarting terrorist prosecutions that he came to believe that he was bulletproof. And if he really believed that the United States was a fascist state that locks up political opponents, his success at staying out of jail convinced him that if the government couldn’t stop him from defending terrorists, then it couldn’t stop him from cheating on his taxes.
That was his mistake.
The mob lawyer who crosses the line is excited by the romance of criminality. The radical lawyer who falls in love with revolution is driven by the romance of terror.
Stanley Cohen didn’t just want to defend terrorists. He wanted to be a terrorist. Instead he was stuck on the other side of the bars, his usefulness as an asset to Hamas or Al Qaeda depended on him staying on the right side of the law.
The terrorist lawyer with his showy radical digs on Avenue D, his unkempt hair and his snapshots with Hamas leaders, lived vicariously through the men he defended. And in his office, he kept a little secret, soliciting cash payments from the murderers who hired him and thrilling inwardly as he broke the law, not like the mass murderers he admired, but like the dirty little terrorist errand boy he was all along.
Stanley Cohen will never defend Osama bin Laden. Instead he will go away to a big prison near one of those upstate villages where he stashed the blood money that his murdering clients paid him.
And he will be locked up not for being a revolutionary or a terrorist… but for being a common thief.
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