ALBANY, N.Y. — The lawyer who represented Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law at his recent terrorism trial pleaded guilty Monday in Syracuse to a federal charge of impeding the IRS.
Stanley Cohen, 63, of New York City, who was accused of underreporting cash payments from clients, entered the plea on the day his trial was scheduled to begin. He said the trial and any appeals would have been a “tremendous” financial burden.
Under the plea agreement, Cohen faces up to 18 months in prison at sentencing, which was scheduled for Aug. 21. He remains free until then. The plea agreement says he will admit in federal court in Manhattan, where his law practice is based, to misdemeanor charges of failing to file federal tax returns in 2006 and 2007.
He also will lose his law license but can reapply for it after he is out of prison.
“I plead to being an enemy of the fascist state,” Cohen told The Associated Press on Monday after leaving court. “This I believe has been a massive witch hunt for more than a decade. And I believe, as much as anything, it was designed to buy up my time … and get my license … and to silence me.”
Federal prosecutors said Cohen filed no state or federal tax returns for six years, requested a filing extension each year and made a modest payment toward taxes due and essentially kept no financial records while his bank accounts showed nearly $3.7 million in deposits.
“As citizens, we all have an obligation to pay our fair share of taxes needed to support the United States,” U.S. Attorney Richard Hartunian said. “Stanley Cohen sought to avoid his tax obligations. … No citizen, especially an attorney, is above the law.”
The agreement requires he provide timely and accurate tax information to the IRS for 2005 to 2010 and file federal and state tax returns for those years and pay any taxes, fines, penalties and interest owed.
Cohen says authorities filed the charges in retaliation for his criminal defense work that has included representing people charged with terrorism, about 30 cases total in the U.S. and 15 overseas. Cohen represented bin Laden son-in-law Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, who was convicted March 26 in Manhattan for his role as al-Qaida’s chief spokesman.
He also has filed lawsuits against Israel for what he calls “the theft of Palestine” and says he probably has won more lawsuits against
federal seizures than any other defense lawyer in northern New York. “There are a lot of federal agents that don’t like me,” he said.
Asked about the tax case, Cohen said he didn’t file tax returns for five years but has filed extensions and made payments, kept cash in his safe and worked for clients on a barter basis. The government is accurately claiming that $3 million passed through his accounts but forgot to mention the $2.6 million in expenses, he said.