Before the Law

Stanley Cohen – Attorney

Image by Chris Visions

To some, he’s “the world’s number one self-hating Jew” and to others, he’s simply “the most hated lawyer in New York”. But he’s no pushover, and he’s made some unlikely friends over the course of his legal career.


Artist – Title – Album

Josiah Steinbrick – Blue Age – Devotion & Tongue Street Blue
Josiah Steinbrick – Interior Districts of the Spirit World – Devotion & Tongue Street Blue
Oliver Coates – Still Life – skins and slime
Lucrecia Dalt – No era sólida – Endiendo
Emily A. Sprague – Your Pond – Water Memory / Mount Vision
Josiah Steinbrick – Heyloo / Snakeskin – Devotion & Tongue Street Blue
Lucrecia Dalt – Seca – Endiendo
Josiah Steinbrick – Blue Age – Liquid / Devotion & Tongue Street Blue
Jeffrey Lewis – Now We’ve Beat That Stupid Virus We Can Get Back to Our Stupid Lives –
2021 Tapes (Suddenly It’s Been Too Late for a Long Time)

Before the Law
Stanley Cohen – Attorney

Robin: And I’m also going to be recording on this end, Stanley. And do I have your permission to record on my end?

Stanley: You, the CIA, the NSA, the KGB, and LSD. I stopped believing I had a legitimate expectation of privacy 50 years ago. I didn’t need Snowden to tell me, so it’s okay.

Nick: How many countries are you actually barred from?

Stanley: That I know of at this point? Three, Israel, Egypt, and I recently learned from a friend, Saudi Arabia. I suspect I’m also barred from UAE and Bahrain. In Europe, I have no idea. I haven’t traveled in a while, but Israel, I know for a fact, Egypt. Egypt is … a friend of mine said you’re not only barred, if you go to Egypt, I’m sure they’ll let you land, and a few days later, your next of kin will be called. You could be the first person in history to end up suicide by drowning in the Sinai.

Robin: Do you want him to do an introduction, just do you have it on tape? Do you want him to do, “My name is Stanley Cohen and I’m a lawyer?”

Stanley: Do you want me to sing My Way by Frank Sinatra?

Robin: I mean, yes, please.

Nick: Do it.

Stanley: It’s funny because I went into the house to take a break and I had no less than three either texts or phone messages, and we’ll just leave it at that, from three different persons who were designated as foreign … designated terrorists.

Robin: Mr. Popular over here.

Stanley: Yeah. Well, that’s what I do.

Nick: From Luminary, you’re listening to Love and Radio. I’m Nick van der Kolk. today’s episode, Before the Law, featuring Stanley Cohen. How would you describe your appearance?

Stanley: What’s that rock band that had the beards down to their knees?

Nick: CZ top, I think.

Stanley: Yeah, ZZ top. I probably could pass for ZZ top right now. My beard is, is wild. It’s six, seven inches long. My hair is completely out of control. I called the local beautician and she said, “You can come in to do your hair, but I can’t do your beard right now.” And I said, “I’m not making two trips. Give me a call when you can do my beard.” It’s wild.

Nick: Do you feel like your appearance has any particular advantages or disadvantages in the work that you do?

Stanley: I don’t really [inaudible 00:02:54]. People come to me or my adversaries in court or judges before whom I appear, they know very well that I am not your typical in terms of looks, let alone ai approach to litigation or appearance or demeanor in a courtroom, the classic white collar or ACLU type lawyer. I’ve been known for pinstripes and known for nice shoes, but I’ve also tried cases in jeans and work boots. I don’t do it for a particular purpose. I mean the most important thing for a trial attorney is to take over the courtroom, is to make sure that the jury understands you own the courtroom. The judge may run it, but you own it.

Nick: So what are the things you have to do in order to take over the courtroom?

Stanley: Some would say pick fights with the judge, some would say push the envelope with the judge, some would be to not be intimidated –

Nick: That’s some. What do you think?

Stanley: I think it’s important as a trial attorney to stand your ground, not to be intimidated, not to be coward, and not to simply when a judge says “Sustained,” you shut up and not to retry the same question six times and force the judge to say, “Move on.” I think it’s important in jury selection to make sure the judge understands that they’re the boss, no matter who’s sitting in the robes. I think it’s important to argue over principle, not just to create a show with the government, to make sure that people under … look, every criminal case, almost every one, is political in nature, one way or another.

Stanley: From the person that puts you in the handcuffs to the person that stands across from your lawyer and makes a bail application to the judge that decides whether you’re going home to your mother, your father, your son, or daughter tonight, tomorrow, or three years from now ,to the appellate court that oversees whether the process worked to protect the status quo anti, it’s political. Look, the reality of it is if you know your stuff, if you’re political, if you’re a fighter, if you’re honest to your clients and yourself and you work goddamn hard, you can, even in the midst of the horror of a system that’s built upon prosecuting people on the basis of largely color, class, and politics, you can win.

Stanley: So yeah, I grew up in a kosher household and religion was practiced. Faith was strong. I would go on Saturday mornings as a young man with my father to synagogue. My father had been a World World II veteran and hero. He very, very, very rarely talked about war experiences. I came into the living room one day and saw him fixated on a TV show. I was young and it was a story of a concentration camp.

Archival: The Nazis kept the occupants [inaudible 00:06:02] filth and disease.

Stanley: There were bodies of emaciated women and children standing behind a fence.

Archival: How do you weigh the sunken, tortured bodies of …

Stanley: And he told me this one story about how he had gone into the basement of a concentration camp to liberate, and he came across a skeletal person sitting on the floor who had no idea who my father was. He saw a uniform and he started to cry because he thought my father was going to kill him. My father ended up carrying him outside, carrying him to the day of light, left him there, gave him some food and water, and then moved on.

Archival: The fires of [inaudible 00:06:41] out the place, but not the memory.

Stanley: I think to some degree, my father’s response to what he observed, what he lived through in terms of World War II in concentration camps led him, as he grew older and as he saw more with Israel and how Israel had become everything that he had had fought against and resisted and repulsed him about humanity when it came to Palestinians. During the first Intifada, there were images that when I would come to visit my parents, that my father would comment, or my mother would comment about this is not the place and these are not the people and these are not the politics that I fought for and lived for.

Stanley: And my mother in particular, as a young girl, she told me years later, she used to raise money for Zionists, the Zionist movement in street corners of the city and in elsewhere in New Jersey on. Occasion, I could recall sitting around in the living room of the apartment on King Street with her sort of shaking her head as she saw stories on television of mass executions and Israeli bombs, fire bombs, recalling how, as a 12 or 13 or 14 year old kid on the street corner in Patterson, New Jersey fundraising money, she said, “If I had known then that I was raising money to later on build bombs to drop on other human beings, I would have never done it.”

Stanley: I just finished six months worth of litigation, pro bono I might add, my then girlfriend at the kept reminding me, of the 13th Street squatter case in the lower East side of Manhattan. Very long trial, lots of work and appeal, lots of arrests, lots of litigation, lots of witnesses. I was exhausted, totally fucking beat. And my then girlfriend had surprised me with getting us a cabin on the beach in Maine for a week or two weeks. And it was like, oh yeah, okay, we’re packing, we’re getting ready to go and everything was under control. I had two weeks off, I had someone watching the dog and everything was good, when the phone rang and it was some people who said, “Stanley, we got a case that we want you to take a look at,” and I said, “Nah, I’m tired. I’m burnt. I’m spent. I’m going to Maine with my girlfriend.”

Stanley: And they said, “No, no, no, no. This is a major player. We want you to take a look. We think you’re the person …” and I said, “Well, what happened?” They said, “Well, he’s a guy that was arrested coming back into the United States and he’s being held at MCC.” And I said, “I got to go.” And so I just said, “Well, who is this guy?” And the person said, “Mussa Abu Marzouk.” And I said, “Well, that’s nice.”

Nick: The name meant nothing to you.

Stanley: The name at the time meant nothing to me. I said just … trying to be cordial and play, “Who’s Mussa Abu Marzouk?” So the caller said, “Well he’s the head of Hamas.” I went, “Oh, okay. So what happened here?”

Archival: For years, Mussa Abu Marzouk has been one of our Hamas’s key fundraisers, paymasters, and political strategists. He has the detachment and demeanor of a political spokesman who chose long ago not to notice the blood on his hands.

Stanley: Musa had been in the United States for years. He had been there, he’d got his master’s degree, as I recall, he got his PhD degree there. He was involved in organizing Palestinian communities throughout the United States, did social service activities and fundraising for activities back in Palestine. The state department decided they wanted to expel him from the United States.

Archival: [inaudible 00:10:39] used Abu Marzouk’s arrest to stoke the anti-American fires at Friday prayers. Jerusalem is now seeking Musa’s extradition to face charges in Israel. The legal process is underway.

Nick: For audience members who are not familiar with Hamas, just a quick summary of what Hamas is.

Stanley: Hamas is a national liberation movement. It is the elected representative government in Gaza. It has a political wing, it has a military wing, it is a national liberation movement, and it is the sole movement or the largest movement that is involved in armed struggle against the Israeli military and security forces.

Nick: I mean, in the West, people would commonly refer to Hamas as a Palestinian terrorist group.

Stanley: Well, I don’t really give two shits about what people in the West think.

Nick: And what was Abu Marzouk’s role in Hamas?

Stanley: Abu Marzouk was one of the original founders of Hamas. He was the head of the political bureau, the first head of the political bureau until he was arrested and held in the United States for almost two years. A very serious political guy who has a very clear and keen of where he’s been. Not he personally, but Palestinians, where he has been, where they have been, where they are, and where they need to go. You’re talking about 11, now 12 million people that are stateless, largely that are homeless, that are under siege. So I got dressed and I very quickly had my boots on and my jeans and my hair was a mess and my beard was a mess, and I went down to MCC and got in to see Abu Marzouk. They built a cage downstairs in Nine South in the main entranceway, 20 feet long, 20 feet wide, with bars so that they could observe us. I guess they wanted to make sure I wasn’t handing him a Snickers bar or a Molotov cocktail.

Stanley: And he came out to see me and he looked at me, stared at me and he eyed me up and down, up and down. He looked at me and he said, “Who are you?” I said, “I’m a lawyer.” And he looked up and down, up and down. I used a certain phrase, I don’t remember what it was, that I was given to convey to him, to let him know I’d been sent by the right people. Whatever it was, I don’t remember. Maybe it was the Chevy pickup is in the parking lot. I don’t know. So I used the phrase, and at that point he knew that everything was halal, not [inaudible 00:13:09]. It was good. So he looked at me and he said, “I don’t need a lawyer.” I said, “You’re right. You don’t need one lawyer, you need a dozen lawyers.” So I spent about three hours with him that night, got home, called my girlfriend who was furious, started screaming, “You fucker. What are you doing? You screwed our vacation plan,” blah, blah, blah. And I said, “Mira, I’m not going. Why don’t you go up there and I’ll join you in a few days?” She said, “I’ve been through this before. Fuck you.” Hung up. That was the end of it, and I became Abu Marzouk’s lawyer.

Nick: I understand you have a lot of photographs in your office and stuff.

Stanley: Go on upstairs. I’m not going up. My leg is killing me. Well, unless you need me to talk about –

Nick: Yeah, I kind of want you to.

Stanley: All right, that’s fine. Time to go up. Well, let’s see. This is with me … look at this mess. We with Abu Amar. You know him as Yasser Arafat, years ago. This is me with [inaudible 00:14:14], who was the founder of Hamas. God, look at this. This is one of my favorites. This is also in Gaza. Me with Marzouk, who was the head of the political wing of Hamas. Glass broke, I got to get it fixed. There’s another photo with me and [inaudible 00:14:27], old friends. Also Rafa in 1997, a great sign, welcome to Hamas camp. This is one of my favorites.

Stanley: I spent a thousand hours with Abu Marzouk and his family and members of the community, and went overseas and spent a lot of time with the leadership of Hamas, with the framers and founders of Hamas. These were women and men that had spent years in mixed communities, in communities of Christians and Muslims and Jews, of academic circles, of scientific circles, of legal circles, who were organizers, who were speakers. This was never about Jews. This was nothing. This was a political struggle for self-determination and liberation. It had to do with Zionism, it had to do with international law. So this was not about, “Oh my God, you’re the first Jew we’ve met.”

Stanley: If I was visiting with my parents in Westchester, Musa would call their phone number to get ahold of me. And I walked in one day and my mother said to me, “It’s Musa, I’m talking to Musa.” And she said, “Are they treating you okay? Are you eating okay? Is everything okay? How’s your wife? How’s your kids?” “Yes, Mrs. Cohen. How are you? Is your leg better?” An 85 then your old yiddish mama sitting around, caveching about her health with the leader of Hamas and MCC.

Archival: Earlier today, suicide bombers blew up two buses in the Southern Israeli city of [inaudible 00:16:05].

Archival: In Israel today, two suicide bombers detonated their explosives.

Archival: Eight Israelis were killed this morning in a bus explosion outside.

Archival: At least 10 people are reported dead, dozens more wounded.

Archival: Police and witnesses said the bomber boarded number 960 at the main Haifa bus station and set off his charge about 20 minutes later in the rush hour traffic.

Archival: Hamas and al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade claimed joint responsibility.

Archival: The group Hamas has taken responsibility, as I understand?

Archival: That’s correct. The Hamas has taken responsibility.

Stanley: I have never supported the tax on civilians by anyone, by anyone. I think civilians are completely off the table and off the target. But there’s not this Vatican litmus test where, “Oh my God, at one point at one time in one place, someone who claimed to have been a member of your movement or actually was dispatched by some of your movement targeted civilians so I’m writing you off.” If that were the case, I would have to live in a fucking cave on Mars. There are times with national liberation movements where things get ugly, but we’re not talking about movements with air forces. We’re not talking about movements with navies. We’re not talking about movements with tanks. We’re not talking about movements that have highly sophisticated networks of weaponry that European and European colonial projects do.

Robin: So actually, can we just back up a second, Stanley? Because really what I want to understand is when is violence a legitimate tactic and when is it not? Is it just about who’s wielding it and how much power or they already have?

Stanley: Listen, that’s settled by international law and the law of war. Armed struggle, which includes violence is legal under international law for people that are occupied. Armed violence is permitted for people that are engaged in self-defensive communities of homes. Armed violence is a permissible response under the law of war to invading forces, to invading civilian … even people that are reservists. It’s legitimate under war right there. The law of war and the Geneva conventions very clearly defines when the use of violence, including armed violence, is permissible. I mean armed struggle, the use of weapons, the use of violence under international law is 100% lawful. It’s lawful.

Nick: But even putting that aside, I mean in terms of … I mean, were there any activities that Hamas engaged in that sort of give you pause?

Stanley: No, no.

Nick: Not like suicide bombings or any of that stuff?

Stanley: No, no. Listen, I’m a lawyer. I’m involved with clients for many years, even in those days, people involved in armed struggle. I’m involved with people who have at times used violence, at times used their tongues, at times used tactics that would be described as pacifist, at times engaged in armed struggle. I don’t dictate the manner and means of armed struggle or resistance. That’s not for me to do. If I’m going to pass judgment on anyone for tactics, for strategies, for the activity they’ve engaged in, I don’t have to travel outside of Washington, DC. I mean, when you begin to say, “Are there anything that troubled you?” The slaughter of millions of North American Indians troubled me, the slave industry troubled me, the surf industry of Asians troubled me.

Stanley: Jim Crow troubled me, the US Senate, including Bernie Sanders voting for sanctions in Iraq in 1998 or whenever it was, which killed half a million children troubled me. The dropping of atom bombs troubled me, the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan troubled me. So I don’t have to take a look at self-determination and national resistance movements in the Middle East to be in the eye of the storm over issues of weapons and movement and violence and that type of activity. Now, where do I stand? What do I do? I was inculcated. I grew up in the most violent terrorist regime of the last several centuries called the United States. Let me say this. Let me just … as a closeup, I have zero doubt in my mind if I were Palestinian what I would do. Zero doubt in my mind.

Robin: What would you do?

Stanley: I would clearly be involved in armed struggle, clearly. No if, ands, or buts. And I probably would have been imprisoned by Israel and murdered or died in jail 20 years ago.

Nick: So along these lines, we were hoping to play terrorist or freedom fighter lightning round.

Stanley: Yeah, go ahead.

Nick: So I’m just going to throw out some names. You tell me if they’re a terrorist or a freedom fighter. So Hamas.

Stanley: Oh, freedom fighter.

Nick: Okay. [inaudible 00:21:24]?

Stanley: Freedom fighter.

Nick: Al-Qaeda.

Stanley: Largely terrorist.

Nick: ISIS.

Stanley: Oh, clearly terrorist.

Nick: Khmer Rouge.

Stanley: Sick puppies.

Nick: So terrorists?

Stanley: Oh, absolutely.

Nick: How about Basque separatists?

Stanley: Freedom fighters.

Nick: Tamil tigers.

Stanley: Both. Both. Let me ask you, what was the IRA?

Nick: Oh, that was going to be next on my list, actually.

Stanley: Oh, okay. Freedom fighters. Freedom fighter.

Nick: How about the Bundys, those guys who took the national wildlife refuge?

Stanley: Lunatics, sick puppies.

Nick: How about the Rebel Alliance from Star Wars?

Stanley: Nanu nanu shazbot.

Stanley: When you win the case of the leader of Hamas and beat Israel seeking his extradition, you tend to be someone who’s wanted by lots
of folks and lots of movements and lots of clients in the Middle East.

Archival: Osama bin Ladin’s son-in-law will appear in a Manhattan courtroom today after being caught in Turkey.

Archival: [inaudible 00:22:37] was a chief propagandist for Al-Qaeda.

Archival: In the world of Al-Qaeda, he was the guy who married the boss’s daughter.

Stanley: If ever there was a guy swept up, a deer in the headlights, it’s [inaudible 00:22:50].

Archival: The FBI compared him to something like a propaganda minister in a developing country or a [inaudible 00:22:55] in a mob family.

Archival: The son-in-law will appear before a New York federal magistrate in a courtroom here to answer charges of conspiracy to kill US
citizens, as a top member of his father-in-law’s inner circle.

Archival: He was in one video that came out just a day after the 9/11 attacks, in which bin Laden took credit for the attacks and Abhul Gheit praised them on camera.

Archival: America must know that what happened to it is a direct result of this policy. And if America will continue implementing this policy, Muslim sons will not stop under any circumstances.

Stanley: Solomon Abhul Gheit is a good guy. The closest this guy has ever come to a bomb, a gun, a plan is television.

Nick: So what exactly was he accused of doing?

Stanley: Material support for terrorism by virtue of being a religious figure for a while in various camps in Afghanistan, and also making public statements and speeches on air and in various institutions, which the government saw as a means of organizing and enticing additional members to come to join Al-Qaeda. He made speeches. He said some stupid things. Because you were charismatic, because there were lots of young people, because they believed in you, and because they followed you, even though no, we had no reason to believe you were involved in 9/11, your charisma, your speech, your voice helped organize other people who were. That’s why you’re guilty. That was their theory.

Nick: And what was his response to those allegations?

Stanley: Well, his response was simple, not guilty. His response was, “I had an absolute right to make statements and speeches about the United States. And am I to self muscle on the off chance that I’m a powerful speaker and a charismatic speaker and people might identify with me and because of that, might decide they want to engage in an organization, whether it’s Al-Qaeda or another one?” Tom Payne was incredibly charismatic. He was a pamphleteer. He made speeches on the corner. Stanley Cohen has been called at various times in places a charismatic speaker who might be charged with violating the law because as a result of my feelings or sentiments about various nations or states throughout the world, someone chooses to go and do something?

Robin: So that case was tried in New York City, right?

Stanley: Yeah, the Southern district.

Robin: Yeah. So were you facing a losing battle going in trying to defend a guy who was alleged to have been part of 9/11 in New York?

Stanley: No, he wasn’t alleged to … he had nothing to do with 9/11, but trying the case of bin Laden’s son-in-law, who was seen the day after 9/11 in the video saying, “We’re going to come and get you again,” a mile from where the world trade centers were, sure. It’s terrible. And also at the same time, when the Jewish defense organization was plastering all over the neighborhood attacks on me for being a self-hating Jew and for all that blah, blah, blah, blah,

Stanley: During jury selection … they leafleted the night before jury selection, I don’t remember, a whole bunch of leaflets about Cohen needs to be taught, cohen needs to be schooled. He is an enemy of the Jewish people. He’s the enemy of American people. He’s Al Qaeda and justices his to be had, or some crap. I had no idea. Showed up the court, judge called us in the chambers and said, “Have you seen this, Mr. Cohen?” I said, “No.” He said, “Do you feel intimidated, scared. Do you need a continuance?” “No.” It’s the usual wing nuts. So the justice department, we took a break for four hours and the judge ordered the justice department to go around the neighborhood to make sure all these leaflets were taken down so as not to prejudice the potential jury panel. And A lot of jurors said during that case, “I can’t be fair. I can’t be fair.” But when you’re dealing with a case like that, it’s an enormous push uphill.

Archival: Lawyers for Solomon Abhul Gheit argued that the evidence in this case amounted to little more than words and associations. That was enough to convict him on all of the government’s charges. The trial wrapped up in under three weeks with little fanfare and little disruption to this neighborhood, just blocks away from where the world trade centers once stood.

Nick: You were called at one point the most hated lawyer in New York.

Stanley: In America.

Nick: In America.

Stanley: Yeah.

Nick: Is that hyperbole or …?

Stanley: I don’t know. I mean especially post 9/11, oh yeah. Oh yeah. Eventually the HCLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Lawyers Guild, other groups began to get involved in Muslim communities and surveillance and observation and immigration cases and so-called terrorism cases in Guantanamo. But in the first two, three years post 9/11 when no one was doing this stuff, not only was I doing this stuff, but I was doing a million Fox TV and CNN TV and television, because I felt obligated to do it because it was so one-sided, because there were tens of thousands of young Muslim women and men in this country that felt alienated and isolated and frightened and intimidated and disempowered. And I felt obligated to say, “No, it’s going to be okay.”

Stanley: So there was a period where at airports people would come up and spit at me, people would threaten me, I’d be in the bathroom and someone would throw a roll of toilet paper at me. I’ve had it on airplanes, where people come up and are obnoxious as hell. “You’re an asshole, Cohen.” “Good, I’m an asshole. All right, thank you. You want to see mine? Can I see yours?” And they expect me to fuck them up and fight back. And it’s like, “You done? Hey Freddy, can I put my headphones on and have some food?” I’m not going to go to war over that stuff. I got a call in the middle of the night, literally the day after 9/11, two days after 9/11, I was awakened in the middle of the night by a reporter from the daily news, “Mr. Cohen, this is so-and-so.” “Great. How are you? Why are you waking me up?” “Well, you represent terrorists.” I couldn’t resist. “I represent freedom fighters. No, I don’t represent Wall Street,” fucking with this guy.

Stanley: “No, let’s be serious here. What do you think about 9/11?” “It was horrible. I watched people covered in ash walk up and down my neighborhood. I saw the buildings collapse. It was terrible. It was horrible.” “Well, these are your people.” “My people? That’s news to me.” “What do you think about it?” “I said it was horrible.” So he said, “Well, it’s bin Laden.” I said, “I wouldn’t know. I haven’t seen Osama since the weekend playing golf.” Young reporter and I was fucking with him and he was fucking with me and he said, “Well, would you represent bin Laden?” I said, “I don’t know.” I said, “I would deal with bin Laden the way I would any other ‘political client’. I’d sit down and talk to him. I’d decided is this someone I could spend umpteen thousands of hours with. Is this something I politically could deal with, who I personally could deal with?”

Stanley: I said, “But besides, I really don’t think bin Laden is a due process sort of guy. I doubt he’s going to walk into a courtroom of his own volition or not in the United States. Thank you. Goodbye.” The next day, the Daily News second page, “Cohen says he would represent bin Laden who’s a great hero,” with my picture there. It’s like, no, this never happened in this discussion, but go ahead. Have some fun. So I got … oh my God, emails and phone calls and screaming matches, “You mother fucker. You killed our people.” I got people from Texas, from Kansas, from Ohio who have hated New York their entire fucking life, hated New Yorkers, hated New York City, hate Jews, hate the East coast. “I would never go there. It’s full of arrogant mother fucking pieces of …” the base, Trump’s base these days calling, haunting, “Oh my God, these wonderful …” I was like, “What the fuck are you talking about? You hate us as New Yorkers forever!”

Nick: I need to take a quick bathroom break.

Stanley: Want to take a food break?

Nick: Yeah, go on break.

Stanley: Take a little. I’ve got two good quiches.

Nick: Yeah, I’m excited to try this quiche.

Stanley: Here, this was sent from Hamas.

Nick: Oh, there you go.

Stanley: It’s vegetarian. I hope you don’t mind.

Nick: No, it’s fine. I’d love to touch on your conviction for tax evasion.

Stanley: It’s not tax evasion, it’s impeding the IRS. It was the only prosecution for impeding the IRS in 30 years by the Department of
Justice. It started out with a fight that I had with the government over OFAC, the Office of Financial Asset Control. It started out with Abu
Marzuk, because we had a bunch of contributors that wanted to donate money to both the defense team, the defense fund, and expenses, who wanted to do it but were afraid that they would be designated as terrorists or supporters of terrorists. I decided and there came a point in time that almost all the cases, political cases I was doing in the Middle East I was going to do pro bono from that point on, that we’d get third parties that weren’t foreign designated terrorist organizations, where they would pay for travel, pay for expenses, but I would not do anything, get paid a penny by foreign designated terrorist organizations or individuals. OFAC reached out to me one say and they said, “You got to get a license for these people.” “No I don’t. You’re telling me because I represent someone that’s an FTO or an individual, I have to get a license?”

Archival: Yes.

Stanley: No, the statute is if I’m getting money.

Archival: You’re doing these cases for free?

Stanley: Yes.

Archival: Well we think under the interpretation, whether it’s publicity, whether it’s public relations, whether it’s you like them, you’re dating their daughter, you’re dating their brother, you’re getting something in exchange. You have to get a license.

Stanley: Fuck you.

Archival: Fuck me? We’re going to indict you.

Stanley: Go ahead. Indict me. You want to go to court and put me on trial because I’m representing FTOs for free? Go ahead.

Stanley: This investigation went on for 10 years and it went nowhere. They eventually walked away. So the IRS gets involved and they take the position, “We know you cheated us. We can’t figure out how, we can’t figure out why, we can’t figure out how much, but we know.” So it really gets heated. It begins two years, three years of subpoenas. There’s motions to quash, they start interfering with my clients, they start threatening to bring my family from [inaudible 00:33:37] into this. I just decided to end this. Done, finished, enough. I made a decision that I was not going to spend the next 20 years of my life without a law license in appellate courts, in trial courts, in and out, as I knew other lawyers, I wasn’t going to do it. And I ended up taking a plea to impeding the IRS.

Nick: And why do you believe that this was all politically motivated?

Stanley: Well, other than the fact that I was what started out as an investigation for material support of terrorism because of my telling the US government, the FBI, the federal prosecutors all over the country, to some degree the CIA, the DEA, and everyone else go fuck yourself, I can’t imagine why.

Stanley: 2014, the last time I was in Gaza, it was, I don’t know, six months, nine months before I went to prison, people in Gaza asked me to stay. They said, “We’ll give you political asylum. You’re one of us. You’re here. You’re home. This bullshit about impeding the IRS …” and I said, no, not because it wasn’t attractive, not because I don’t have a sense of identity, community feel, in love with Palestinians and their resistance, but because of … listen, ducking Israeli bombs is not where I make a difference. Where I make a difference is throwing my bombs in the West. And my bombs sometimes are in the courtroom, sometimes they’re in a conference, sometimes while speaking. I have no doubt that the US government would have preferred that I’d stayed in Gaza. I have no doubt that Israel, they would have assassinated me five times over. “Oh yeah, Cohen had a tank in his house. The house is gone.” The funny part of it is I met with the regional director of the IRS and the treasury department towards the end of this.

Stanley: They spent years looking for my money off shore, looking for the hidden assets, looking for the land, looking for the bank account, looking for the Panama papers. And she eventually said to me, she said, “There is none, is there?” I said, “No.” She says, “I mean, you’ve really done this stuff for free in the Middle East.” I said, “Mostly.” She said, “Why?” I said, “Then you really don’t know who I am.” And that was the end of it.

Clarence Darrow: Most people think there is no cause for crime, except the [inaudible 00:36:02], the one they call a criminal.

Stanley: As a young activist, as a young kid growing up, one of my heroes … and he’d been dead already 50, 60 years, was Clarence Darrow.

Clarence Darrow: But as a matter of fact, there’s a cause for everything in this world, and there’s no way to remove the evils without removing the cause.

Archival: He had sort of cut his teeth as a defender of labor unions back in the really brutal days of labor organizing in the 1890s, 1880s, where he defended some of the most notorious labor organizers. They were viewed by the business elitists as virtual terrorists. One of them had blown up the governor of Idaho, and Clarence Darrow went in and defended him and got him off.
Clarence Darrow: The real cause of crime is poverty, ignorance, hard luck.

Archival: He was a master of making compelling arguments of why this person, whether or not he’d blown up the governor of Idaho, deserved to be set free.

Clarence Darrow: All these things, almost universally combine to put people in jail.

Stanley: He was an atheist and agnostic and a mean ass son of a bitch, and when he was dying, someone interviewed him for his final biography and he was asked by the biographer, “If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?” Fair question. And Darrow’s answer was, “I wouldn’t. Not I wouldn’t do it differently, I wouldn’t do it again.”

Clarence Darrow: At all.

Stanley: And Darrow died two days later. It’s been a long journey.

Clarence Darrow: And now the end is near, I’ll state my case of which I’m certain.

Stanley: There are lots of big cases, little cases, big cases.

Clarence Darrow: I did what I had to do and I saw it through without exemption.

Stanley: If I had to do it all over again … there you go. Frank Sinatra, I would. Sorry, Clarence.

Nick: That’s it for Love and Radio. This episode was produced by Noah Ausben, Robin Amer, Tilda Muhusky, and Stephen Jackson. It featured the music of Josiah Steinbrick, Oliver Coats, Lucretia Dalt, and Emily Sprague. for links to all the music we featured on the show, please visit our website,, or you can also sign up for our mailing list. Love and Radio’s producer is Filda McHofsky. Stephen Jackson is our contributing editor. We are brought to you by Luminary and made possible thanks to its subscribers. Thank you. I’m Nick van der Kolk, And if you haven’t already, be sure to check out our brand new Secrets Hotline podcast online at, on Instagram, and available for free wherever you listen to your audio stuff. Thanks for listening,

Stanley: Darrow I think did 140 cases on death row, including Leopold and Loeb and never lost one, never, but got indicted one day for bribing a jury in one of the death penalty cases he did. A juror, bribing a juror. Yeah, and he got acquitted, beat the case at trial, and he did it.

Nick: He did?

Stanley: He did it.


Stanley Cohen

Nick van der Kolk, Host and Director
Noam Osband, Producer
Robin Amer, Producer
Steven Jackson, Producer and Sound Designer
Phil Dmochowski, Producer and Sound Designer

Published on: July 20, 2022

From: Episodes, Season 9

Producers: , , ,

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