Mid October, 2014.
Stanley Cohen abruptly stops responding to voicemails. When you dial his cell, you hear the telltale sound of an overseas phone call, followed by a hold message in Arabic.
Cohen is known to friends and foes alike as an eccentric of the highest order, a foul-mouthed criminal-defense attorney with unruly gray hair, a Saddam Hussein-straight-out-of-the-spider-hole beard, and a long history of representing enemies of the people the world over. In a 2002 profile, the Washington Post‘s Richard Leiby described him as “possibly one of the most hated lawyers in [New York City].” In his Lower East Side apartment, which doubles as his office, he displays photos of himself wearing a wide grin alongside Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, founder and spiritual leader of the Middle Eastern terrorist organization Hamas. Only weeks ago he wore a black-and-white-checked kaffiyeh for a press conference outside the federal courthouse in Lower Manhattan where he’d just unsuccessfully defended Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, the highest-ranking Al Qaeda member ever tried in a civilian court.