A small group of attorneys across the New York bar—including a former president of the Brooklyn Bar Association—has come forward to publicly urge a judge to show leniency for Michael Cohen.
Cohen, former attorney to President Donald Trump, filed a memo late Nov. 30 urging a judge not to send him to prison despite his guilty pleas to several crimes, including campaign finance violations and lying to Congress. His lawyers at Petrillo Klein & Boxer detailed his cooperation with prosecutors and argued that his crimes arose out of his “fierce loyalty” to Client-1, known as Trump.
The defense attorneys also submitted 37 letters of support in documents addressed to U.S. District Judge William Pauley of the Southern District of New York, who is scheduled to sentence Cohen on Dec. 12.
The attorneys writing to Pauley include several leaders of small and midsize firms, but they don’t include partners at Cohen’s last affiliated firm—Squire Patton Boggs. That firm in 2017 promoted its strategic alliance with Cohen and then ended it a year later, following an FBI raid on Cohen’s offices. (For the duration of the agreement, Cohen introduced five clients to Squire, prosecutors said.)
The attorneys who wrote letters to Pauley mainly echo Cohen, essentially writing that he was so dedicated to his client that the devotion hurt him in the end.
Ethan Gerber, an equity partner at Abrams, Fensterman, Fensterman, Eisman, Formato, Ferrara, Wolf & Carone, said he first knew Cohen as an adversary about 18 years ago and over the years Gerber was “never given any reason to question his integrity or his ethics.”
Gerber, a former president of the Brooklyn Bar Association, is a long-standing member of the bar group’s grievance committee, according to his law firm profile. “As a member of a grievance committee, I have seen many attorneys succumb to the wishes of a particularly persuasive client. Mr. Cohen had a client whose extraordinary power of persuasion got him elected to the highest office in the land,” Gerber said.
“I believe Mr. Cohen has taken responsibility for his actions, is sincere in his efforts to rectify his wrongs and is willing and able to help his country in any way he can,” Gerber added.
Andrew Albstein, managing partner of New York real estate firm 35-attorney Goldberg Weprin Finkel Goldstein, said he has known Cohen for nine years, representing him in various real estate transactions. Albstein, in an interview, said his firm never represented Trump or the Trump Organization.
“While we were together working on Michael’s deals, Michael often received telephone calls from his employer at the time,” Albstein wrote, referring to Trump. “Michael almost always would interrupt our conversations or negotiations and take the call, being respectful in the manner in which he addressed his employer, providing quick and clear responses, taking notes and proceeding with the same zeal in which he seemed to address all his personal transactions.”
While Albstein praised Cohen for his generosity for charity and fundraising over the years, Albstein spoke of “another side of Michael” that he witnessed on television talk shows. Cohen would provide “tough, almost unbelievable, responses to situations in which candidate Trump found himself,” Albstein said, adding he believes “Michael was performing as he was directed, and excellently carrying out a job for which he was hired—giving his 100 percent commitment to satisfy his employer.”
David Schwartz, of Gerstman Schwartz, who has appeared on television as Cohen’s attorney and spokesman, said Cohen has referred over the years a number of legal matters to his law firm.
“He would ask that the clients he would recommend received a discount in their legal fees. His first inclination is always to put the interests of others ahead of his owns interests. It is with this mindset that probably led to the troubles he has in the instant case,” Schwartz said.
Meanwhile, other attorneys spoke highly of other aspects of Cohen’s legal practice. A former Debevoise & Plimpton associate, Andrew Dworkin, now a partner at venture capital firm Vedanta Capital, said he has known and been friendly with Cohen for years. That’s despite the fact, Dworkin said, that he is “strongly opposed to Donald Trump and his administration, both on policy grounds and the uncivil tone he has set in this country.”
Dworkin said Cohen gave him career and networking help about five years ago when it looked like his private equity firm might wind down.
“I understand that some of the actions to which Michael has admitted guilt are not admirable. That said, I strongly believe that Michael should be judged on the totality of his person and his life,” Dworkin said.
Marea Wachsman, founding partner of personal injury firm Schreier & Wachsman, and president of the Women’s Trial Lawyers Caucus Inc., spoke of their friendship for the past 32 years and his help over the years, including in a personal injury case and in legislative activities. On the latter, Wachsman said she once called on Cohen to discuss legislative issues related to Uber safety and “Uber’s failure to properly screen, train and regulate its drivers.” Cohen—who owned taxi medallions worth millions of dollars—“did not hesitate to help me understand so I could educate those I worked with on this issue,” Wachsman said.
Another lawyer who now runs a consulting business, Jan Sigmon, who said she has worked “as a senior thought leadership marketer” for BlackRock, LinkedIn and Royal Bank of Canada, also asked Pauley to look at the “totality” of Cohen’s life.
“Michael Cohen is not a bad person; he made some bad decisions,” Sigmon wrote.