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Stanley Cohen (attorney)

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Stanley Cohen
Born1950 (age 73–74)
Alma materLong Island University
  • Attorney
  • political activist
Known forRepresenting controversial clients

Stanley Cohen (born 1950)[1] is an American attorney and political activist. He describes himself as "an advocate for many people the government would like to silence or put in jail.[2]"

He has represented members of Hamas and Hezbollah, a relative of Osama Bin Laden, represented detainees at Guantanamo Bay[3] as well as other controversial clients. In 2014 he pleaded guilty to tax charges and was sentenced to 18 months in prison, resulting in suspension of his law license.[1]

Early life and career[edit]

Cohen was born in 1950 and grew up in Port Chester (New York) between Greenwich, Conn., and Rye (N.Y.) He was raised by Orthodox Jewish parents and attended Hebrew schools. He ceased practicing Judaism at 14.[1]

When he was still a law student at Long Island University, he teamed with attorney Lynne Stewart to represent Kathy Boudin, member of Weather Underground and May 19th Communist Organization who was accused of involvement in the 1981 Brinks Robbery.

After graduating, in the 80s, Cohen worked for seven years at the Legal Aid Society in the Bronx. He also worked on the Winnebago, Omaha and Santee Sioux reservations for an anti-poverty program as a VISTA volunteer. After VISTA, he headed a drug program for homeless teens in Westchester County (N.Y.). In 1983 he earned a J.D. degree at Pace University Law School.

He briefly represented Larry Davis, accused of robbing and killing drug dealers, when he was a senior staff lawyer for the Legal Aid Society.[4] In 1990 Cohen joined with William Kunstler and Lynne Stewart (who was indicted for this case) for the defense of the sheikh Abdul Rahman Yasin, the mastermind of the World Trade Center bombing in 1993.

Cohen has frequently visited the Gaza Strip. One of his clients was Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook, a member of Hamas; he also defended Hezbollah and al-Qaeda members such as a relative of Bin Laden, his son in law, a case that generated harsh criticism. Cohen has said that he will not take a major case unless he identifies with the client's politics and likes them, and he has been accused of anti-Semitism and of being a "terrorist mouthpiece."[1]

In 1996, Cohen represented squatters occupying buildings in New York City's East Village, and advocated that the area become a "zone of resistance" against gentrification, with checkpoints on the borders.[5]

He was involved in unsuccessful negotiations for the release of Peter Kassig, held hostage by ISIS. By request of an old friend, the navy veteran John Penley,[6] Cohen accepted the role of intermediary. According to The Intercept: "While he lacked connections with Islamic State itself, Cohen was able to reach out to Jordan-based Islamist scholar Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, and convince him to open discussions with Turki Binali"[7] but the negotiation failed when Abu Muhammad Maqdisi was arrested.[8]

In 2002, Cohen represented Mazin Assi, who was found guilty for the 2000 New York synagogue firebombing.[9]

The New Republic, in a 2015 profile of Cohen, said that his Twitter account, followed by nearly 59,700 people, is "a stream of legitimate criticism of Israeli policy but also with obnoxious if not downright hateful comments like 'I would rather spend 18 months in jail than to dine with a Zionist.'"[1]

Felony conviction[edit]

In April 2014, Cohen pleaded guilty to obstructing and impeding the Internal Revenue Service and failing to file tax returns, a felony. The conviction resulted in loss of his law license, for which he reapplied after his release from prison. He was charged with receiving cash payments totaling $35,000 that were not reported to the IRS. Prosecutors said he failed to report more than $3 million to the IRS and ran his law practice largely "off the books." He was sentenced to eighteen months in federal prison.[1][10] He claimed the case was politically motivated.[11] Cohen served time at USP Canaan in Waymart, Pennsylvania, U.S. penitentiary.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Schulberg, Jessica (6 January 2015). "The "World's Number One Self-Hating Jew" Goes to Jail". New Republic. Retrieved 12 August 2017.
  2. ^ "Stanley Cohen". @AnonymousVideo. Retrieved 2024-03-16.
  3. ^ Del Rosso, Jared (2018). ""Its Own Kind of Torture": Denial, Acknowledgment, and the Debate About Force Feeding at Guantánamo Bay". Sociological Forum. 33 (1): 53–72. ISSN 0884-8971.
  4. ^ Blair, William G. (23 October 1988). "Davis's Sister to Testify on Night of Police Raid". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 August 2017.
  5. ^ Smith, Chris (8 July 1996). "Live Free or Die". New York Magazine. Retrieved 13 August 2017.
  6. ^ The race to save Peter Kassig, Shiv Malik, Ali Younes, Spencer Ackerman and Mustafa Khalili, Thursday 18 December 2014, The Guardian [1]
  7. ^ U.S.Inaction Killed Hostage Kassig, Says Lawyer, Murtaza Hussain, Dec.23 2014, The Intercept [2]
  8. ^ How a Radical Lawyer Set for Prison Joined Longtime U.S. Gov't Foe in Failed Bid to Free a Hostage, Tuesday, December 30, 2014, Democracy Now! [3]
  9. ^ Mark, Jonathan (2000-12-20). "Palestinians Guilty In Shul Attack". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Retrieved 30 November 2023.
  10. ^ Tobin, Dave (14 April 2014). "Stanley Cohen, attorney to terrorist suspects, pleads guilty to obstructing the IRS". syracuse.com. Retrieved 12 August 2017.
  11. ^ Goodman, Amy; Maté, Aaron (30 December 2014). "How a Radical Lawyer Set for Prison Joined Longtime U.S. Gov't Foe in Failed Bid to Free a Hostage". Democracy Now!.