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Mafia Lawyers – Roy Cohn

Retired Intelligence Detective Gary Jenkins interviews an expert on Mob lawyers,  Australian lawyer Tony Taouk, about Roy Cohn. We learn that Mr. Cohn was a flamboyant fixture in New York City and “made his bones” as the advisory lawyer to Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Committee on Un-American activities during the 1950s. One of Roy Cohn’s most famous mob cases was the time he helped Carmine Galante beat a parole revocation.

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Tony Taouk is an Australian lawyer and a Mafia researcher who specializes in the subject of mob trials and mob lawyers. He has also traveled to the United States and visited mob-related sites in New York, Chicago, and Las Vegas.

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GARY JENKINS, Roy Cohn, Tony Taouk, Carmine Galante

And this grandfatherly man said that I’m gonna leave

the country good. What

are you gonna do when you get to the country?

Well, I mean, I tried peppers last week now I’m gonna plant tomatoes.

His name is Carmine Galante, the late Carmine Galati, who the papers said was the godfather of the mafia. Okay.

You think that had an influence on the federal judgment? He held that you were right in the parole customers role? I

think so

he thinks a farmer ought to be able to say the right thing.

So I mean, it’s very well known that what I do,

I don’t have to believe a person is innocent. Like we thought we got Galante or Tony Salerno or something like that. I don’t have to believe in their innocence in a particular case, I have to believe one of two things. Number one, that that person is innocent in the particular case, or that there are some extraordinary circumstances which make the prosecution unfair.

Well, hey all you wiretappers out there. Welcome back to the studio of Gangland Wire. We got a special show if you listen to that little promo that was Carmine Golante talking with his lawyer Roy Cohen right after Roy did a deal that got him out of jail. He was talking about that what he was gonna go do. I’ve got a an Australian lawyer, Tony Taouk, from down-under from Sydney, Australia, who is an expert on mob lawyers. And we’re gonna do a series of shows and today we’re gonna do one about Roy Cohen. Roy Cohen is not a household name when it comes to the mob lawyers, but he was a mob lawyer as well as the lawyer for Donald Trump and, and a lot of other people in New York City and that character all on his own. So I just thought it was an interesting guy. And that’s gonna be our first one there. We’re gonna do some of the other famous mob lawyers over the next several months. So just sit back and listen to my friend Tony Taouk. from Down Under and I will have a link to his website if you’re in Sydney and you need a lawyer. Thanks a lot for helping me out Tony. Good. We’re just gonna cut right into this guy’s

he’s one of the most he’s a toxic combination of brilliant and evil is probably one of the most interesting and complex and a moral character. I have least in the legal world,

really. I have to agree when it first started coming down. Now he was Donald Trump’s legal advisor. I’m thinking he’s still alive. He’s still around doing, man. I mean, he goes from Joe McCarthy to Donald Trump then stops at the mafia in between? I don’t know.

Yes, he died in 1986. from AIDS. Yeah, at the age of 59 years old. He was actually born in Manhattan in 1927. He was the son of a New York judge and a doting mother. He was quite an excellent student. He earns a law degree from Columbia, before reaching 21. And shortly thereafter, in 1948, obviously, with his family’s help, because he’s judge, his father was a judge off the roll. He became a federal prosecutor in Manhattan, as you would know, becoming a prosecutor is a familiar career trajectory for a successful criminal lawyer because you know how they operate on the other side of the aisle.

What you do is you get out of law school and you need that trial experience. And you can get it with and still get a pay a regular paycheck by joining the prosecutor’s office. So you you’re going to trial, sometimes you’re going to trial, you know, you may have two trials a week small trials, and so you really get good experience in the prosecutor’s office. Yeah,

I didn’t take that path. I went straight into private practice for law school. As Assistant US Attorney, he helped convict the atomic spies, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg of espionage and his conduct during that trial was quite unethical. It’s allegedly, unilaterally contacted the judge to influence the proceedings on a number of occasions. That’s a big no, no, in the legal world. And he’s suborned false testimony from one of the witnesses. So in his early 20s, we can see that he’s already developing or has developed into a shyster lawyer not averse to dirty tricks in the dark arts. He played a role, a major role in Senator McCarthy’s anti communist drive in the 1950s, also known as the Red Scare. The Red Scare was basically a witch hunt to weed out supposed communist sympathizers from the US government. A lot of these witch hunts have no basis and they ended up ruining a lot of lives. Now, this is the interesting part in the course of that campaign. Ironically, Cohn, who was a closeted homosexual, also targeted several closeted homosexuals employed by the US government on the grounds that they were vulnerable to blackmail, by Soviet intelligence due to their sexuality.

Let’s let’s explain to the folks that you may not know some people may not be old enough, Joseph McCarthy was a state and United States senator from Wisconsin, I believe, and he chaired the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities He’s, which was looking at communist in the government and other positions of influence in the United States, correct? That’s correct. Yes. He started pulling movie stars and and government officials. And he made some of McCarthy made some claims like there’s like several 100 communists in the State Department and some real outrageous claims it was all about getting publicity, rather a lot

of it with no basis. A lot of it had no basis. I think he was just a Publicity Hound. And he did that for the attention and just to make himself known, that’s my personal opinion. But a lot of it was just unsubstantiated. And it just ruined like, I sorry, whispering in his ear like Yago from Shakespeare.

Right. That’s that was his position with the committee. He wasn’t a politician. He was a lawyer hired by Joseph McCarthy and the committee’s, and then he advised them on how to conduct themselves and maybe did some depositions and found out what people might say so they would know what to expect and totally how to conduct this.

That’s correct. They were both publicly disgraced on national television during the army McCarthy hearings, when they were called out by famous Boston attorney, Joseph Welch. Then in 1954, the Senate voted to censure McCarthy as people got fed up with his demagoguery and antics. Now, Cohn resigned, and he returned to New York and he went into private practice. A lot of people wrote him off as yesterday’s man and because it was his association with McCarthy, and the Red Scare, and people were right to think that not many people could survive such a fall from grace, yet, he somehow managed to reinvent himself in New York as a hired legal guardian and attracted an impressive a list clientele that included New York Yankees baseball club owner George Steinbrenner, the owners of Studio 54, even the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York and clients engaged in because he was unscrupulous and willing to do anything to win. He famously said, I don’t write polite letters I like to fight

if we don’t make a reasonable workout of everything. I fight all the way. You’ll fight all the way, but I leave everything in

your hands because you know what the article says you’re never mess with Roy Cohn.

As long as a few people, he delivered results for his clients. So the people that acted for him didn’t care about his past association with McCarthy. As unsavory as it was all the rumors about his sexuality, which was bought widespread, it goes to show that when it comes down to it, even the 1950s and 60s self interest superseded all other considerations.

How did he get in with the Mob? I know, for example, he must I think he was a lawyer for Donald Trump’s father, Fred Trump at first and then became Trump’s adviser maybe not really his legal counsel going to court but his advisor during those early 60s and 70s days, when Donald Trump first started going in the construction business in New York, is that correct?

Yes, it’s a little bit earlier than that. See, he was building up his profile in New York and he came to the attention of the mob. He was actually quite ambitious in his non legal business and Devastator was involved in a lot of diverse businesses, banks, insurance companies parking lots. Apparently, even porn theaters and his conventional business practices let Him lead to many investigations of federal indictments for fraud, bribery and conspiracy. And he boastfully avoided paying taxes and kept no assets in his name to keep himself what we lawyers call judgment proof. Even his own law firm wasn’t in his name. Now, on three separate occasions, the Fred’s indicted him and all three times he won acquittals This undoubtedly bolstered his ego and sense of invincibility, and it also attracted attention. By the 1970s. He had become a fixture at the infamous cocaine fueled Manhattan discotheque called studio 54, which we’ve all heard of. And he openly started hobnobbing with socialites, politicians, businessmen, and mafia figures. In fact, he represented the owners of studio 54 When they were charged with tax evasion and obstruction of justice, and when one of the owners was charged with drug possession. As the curveball grew, it was only a matter of time before we attracted the attention of the bother New York which had a stranglehold on the city at the time. Now, what was important, and I think this is what attracted the attention of the Bob, he created a network of compliant district attorneys, law enforcement officials, prosecutors and judges. And one notable example of how we utilize these networks was in 1973, when he represented a then obscure Gambino associate called John Gotti where He was charged with the murder of an Irish American mobster James McBratney. In a Staten Island Bar, the killing occurred in a packed bar and two eyewitnesses implicated Gotti and two other men yet somehow can’t manage to convince the Staten Island district attorney to accept the plea of guilty for attempted manslaughter, in which golly, barely served two years. That’s an amazing result in the circumstances

that is and plus add on top of that, that was actually a hit that he was doing for Carlo Gambino. That guy that guy had kidnapped when again being those relatives and then the guy had died. I can’t remember his name, but he died during the kidnapping. So this was really a mob hit that Gotti got two years after Roy Cohen made a deal and got him two years. Is that correct?

That’s correct. That’s exactly right. I think it was Carlo Gambin’s nephew. Yeah. Yeah. And I think that’s how somebody Got His Stripes because of that hit.

Yeah, I think it was made because of that. He did that he saw his time and just put me in a good deal and pled guilty and gotten out of there. So yeah, I think he made it and got made because of that.

John Gotti probably wouldn’t have gone on to achieve such prominence if he received a longer sentence for the McBratney murder. Yeah, he would have brought it in prison for the next decade. Instead of becoming a rising star in the Gambino family, we probably wouldn’t have heard of him, there are probably more diversity definitely would have wouldn’t have received such prominence. Now in that same year in 1973, this is where his relationship with Donald Trump started. The federal government sued a real estate firm owned by the Trump family, for bias against black people trying to rent apartments matter and his advice to Trump was to fight them tooth and nail cancer soon, so can file a $100 million countersuit against the government. Now, then, in 1975, after two years of legal battles and mountain legal fees, the government finally agreed to settle Now Trump was impressed with code for this and he constantly kept his counsel for the next decade until towards the end of Cohen’s life and Trump pretty much cut ties with him. Now the interesting part is this kind of this story kind of ties into the mob because it would like to be suggested that kind of acted as a go between for Trump and another infamous client, Fat Tony Salerno, the boss of the Genovese crime family. Salerno ran a very lucrative numbers record in New York and that made 10s of millions of dollars every year and can represented Fat Tony when he was charged with illegal gambling and tax evasion. In 1978, for which he was convicted and served six months Fat Tony Salerno, and other organized crime figures in New York controlled the ready mix concrete business in New York and everyone in construction in New York, New York at the time. Now, it said that Khan brokered a deal between his two clients between Fat Tony Salerno, the Genovese family, and Trump, which facilitated the construction of Trump Tower in the early 1980s. Using Ready Fix concrete, it all kind of ties in in this, you know, and

he will represent Fat Tony during the commission trial later on, also, so he was like a lifelong attorney for Fat Tony Salerno,

he was actually the the Commission trial that you’re talking about took place in 1985 and 1986. By this stage, he was very ill with a case and he had to pull out I think, and by the time the verdict in the commission trial came out, which I think was early 1987, or maybe late 1986, he was dead. Okay, so he

represented him I found an old clip where he was on the courthouse steps talking about Fat Tony

you know, going through things like posting bonds and all item a good guest should be out in about 30 minutes. Castellano was a first. He had some $4 million bail. I represent Tony Salerno. The government asked for $4 million bail, the judge cut it in half. He should make that be out surely, but shortly can be. In 1978 he represented Carmine Galanti the acting boss of the Bonanno Family. Now by all accounts, Galante was a very nasty piece of work, as you probably don’t have us know he was. He helped set up a sophisticated to heroin trafficking operation known as The French Connection and was implicated in many murders. He was the type of mobster who was feared by other mobsters. Now Galante parole was revoked by the United States parole commission because he was allegedly associated with other mobsters and he was sent back to prison where he had previously served 12 years of useful narcotic trafficking. However, current managed to convince a judge that the government had illegally revoked galatas Paul and he was immediately released, which is another impressive feat.

And this grandfatherly man

said that I’m gonna leave in the morning and work the country go what are you gonna do when you get to the country? Well, I mean, that was last week. Now I got to plant tomatoes.

His name is Carmine Galante, the late Carmine Galati, who the papers said was the godfather of the mafia. Okay.

You think that had an influence on the federal judge when he held the you were right in the parole comissoiner’s wrong? I think so. He thinks a farmer ought to be able to see

right I think so. I mean, it’s very well known that what I do

now, in hindsight, Galati would have been better off staying in prison because a few months later, as we’re all aware, he was shot dead while drinking a glass of wine in a Brooklyn restaurant. You will call the infamous photo with

the cigar

splayed out in the restaurant area with the cigars. He’d been jockeying for power in New York, unwisely stepped on a few toes at the commission when they decided to get rid of it. Carmine had big dreams. He wanted to become the boss of all bosses in New York and did like I said, he stepped on a few toes. And he started jockeying for power, started getting very aggressive. They didn’t. The Commission decided to get rid of him. Board current actually attended his wake. And he made a short speech where he said, You know, it’s not up to me to judge him only know what I’ve read in newspapers. It’s up to the Almighty to judge him and something along those lines. At one time or another. He represented all five of the New York organized crime families. And yeah, like you said before, have you not gotten sick, you would have played a big role in the commission trial of 1985 in 1986, sometime in the late 1970s and early 1980s, he contracted HIV but he kept it secret. Like I said he was a closeted homosexual, to anyone who was obvious he was sick, but to anyone who asked to say that he was suffering from liver cancer. What’s interesting also is he was actually equally ambitious in his in his not his not legal career. His conventional business practices caused him to problems with the authorities all the time, in 1986. A while he was battling aids, a five judge panel this bar in for stealing $100,000 from a client, apparently this client lent him $100,000. But he turned around and said issued an invoice and said that was paid for legal fees and the disciplinary committee of the Bar Association found otherwise. And he also tried to get a client to event these will and make him the beneficiary and he actually dressed up as a medical professional, a nurse and walked into the hospital and tried to get this fine to spin it was initial of this event will or codicil I think it was and there were all sorts of other reprehensible practices, which caused him to be disbarred ultimately in 1986, but he actually died. A very interesting character. If I was on trial, or falls and died in the 1970s, I probably would have retained him for just sounded like a very effective attorney.

He would have held your nose while you retained.

Yeah, probably didn’t come cheap. But I mean, he got the job done. That’s for sure.

Yeah, another interesting thing, I was reading up a little bit about him and, and he was he was the master. He had all kinds of publicity connections to reporters and, and gossip columnist and he had a master of publicity in New York, which that’s, that’s what it’s all about. So he’d be trying case in the papers before it ever got into the courtroom. And he was he was great at that. I think that’s probably one thing Trump liked about him was because Trump’s a Publicity Hound. He could really get generate a lot of publicity for you.

Yeah, he had an amazing network. And I don’t know if it was because of his high profile because he got involved in the McCarthy hearings. He was obviously a very good lawyer, and he, he mixed in a lot of social, a lot of those elite circles in New York. He was, like I said, he was a fixture of studio 54 And he hobnob with a lot of different types of people. And he actually was good friends with Ronald Reagan as well, and he helped him with his campaign in 19. In 1980, he was very well connected. And I think in New York, it’s all about the favor bank. Yeah. And it’s all about your image. It’s all about your connections and can use that completely in depth. I think that’s what made him so handy to all his clients.

The interesting, he was. I never really thought of him as a mob lawyer until you mentioned that we were talking about these different mob lawyers, I always think of Bruce Cutler and Oscar Goodman, as the mob lawyers, but but he was he represented those guys. Yeah, he was.

But he’s more known for his activities in the 1950s, as opposed to later on in the 1970s. There, obviously, and he said it himself. He said that everything he didn’t 1950s under the McCarthy would ultimately overshadow any achievements that he had later in life. So he was yeah, he was, I mean, he acted for all five mafia families at one time or another, and he got the results. But yeah, he’s not known as a mob lawyer. He was a quintessential mob lawyer. To a large extent, there have been many examples of lawyers crossing the line or flying too close to the sun. They’re called Robert Simone in Philadelphia, it got to the point where he was argued that he was proposed to become a member of the Philadelphia bond.

Story You know about that. Let’s let’s do that next time, or one of them one of these times. So let’s do Robert Simone.

Yes. And there’s also Franklin Garner who got too close as well. You’re there are enemies become your enemies when you get too close to a draw that line? One that your employer who managed to keep himself who managed to produce a very good, he did a very good job at insulating himself as James Lawson died a few years ago. He made that name again, James Morosa. From New York. He did a very good job. He represented a lot of organized crime figures over three decades, and he was never ever no one ever questioned his integrity, or no one ever suggested he was a part of the mob. He managed to keep himself very insulated from all that capable professional, but a lot of others yet, even Bruce Cutler, at one point there was suggesting he was getting too close to Gotti. I think that played a role in him being disqualified in from Gotti’s trial in 1992.

It did it did. They said he couldn’t represent Him because something they’d heard on the wiretaps that made it look like he was more a part of it might end up becoming a defendant himself. So the the judge disqualified him on that one.

And Oscar Goodman was very good at drawing the lines as well.

He was I read his life stories book and, and he was he was a master drawn line. I’ve got some tapes of him talking to Kansas City mob guy and he’s good. He never stepped over that line. He really keeps him fended off, even though they’re trying to

get caught in a number of occasions to get to to basically bring him down. They had wiretapped on one stage by purported client and various other things.

Yeah, they tried to, the bureau tried to run a guy in on it and they got an informant to take an undercover agent in and then the agent started like acting like way you know, I got a really good deal on some jewelry here. Tryhing to suck hom in, so.

that’s right. Yes. It didn’t work. It was very smart Oscar. He was he was I visited his restaurant when I was in Las Vegas a few years ago to see if I could meet him and I couldn’t find couldn’t catch him.

I say shows up out there every once in a while he’s he’s quite the man about town in Las Vegas. So you could have got him there and he probably was pretty gracious guy. He probably would have chatted you out for a little bit. This has been great. Let’s let’s do we’ll do some more of these. All right. Yeah, absolutely. I know you’ve done some research on some of these other lawyers and and I think it’s you know, such a big part of it. So we’ll, we’ll probably do try to do where we do like one a month or something. And Lars, quick little show on the mob lawyers. I know I had Oscar Goodman cross examined me once. I was scared to death. I walked into that courtroom. It was a trial and all I did was I got a call from the FBI and they said go to this Pete’s restaurant go to go to Marty’s barbecue was owned by a guy named Pete Tamburello. And said go down there and just sit and see if Tony Ripe or Anthony Civella comes in and what does he do? I go I sit down or missing barbecue took another guy with me that there. You know, shortly thereafter, Tony right walks in and sits down then some kid like a 20 probably 25 or 30 year old kid but a young guy and was obviously not trying to be a gangster look like a gangster and he comes in and he sits down and they talk they just kind of watch a movie. We watch him pretty soon Tony takes out a checkbook and writes out a check and tears it out and hands it to the kid. Of course, I couldn’t really see it was a check. I can only see that he wrote something and something that looked like a checkbook and tore it out and handed to the kid we left. So you know, I got ahold the FBI and said, Hey, here’s what I saw. And they said, Okay, about a year later, they’re doing this trial on this Tony ripes of Allah. He was he was doing gray market drugs, they were buying drugs and claiming that it was for a nursing home and you get a big discount for a nursing home. And then he had a guy that had some individually owned pharmacies out in Nevada, and he was basically supplying those pharmacies out there for retail sale and he wasn’t storing them properly, sometimes supposed to be stored properly, just put them in a little warehouse. Then they got a truck and they carry him out to Las Vegas. And so they knew that he was going to write a check for that kid, you know, they had Tony Ripe’s check from that kid’s bank account. So they had everything. They just needed me to say that I saw him what I saw him do so they said that Oscar Goodman’s his lawyer that oh man, I walk in that courtroom is old fashioned courthouse had real high ceilings. It was like 1930s courthouse courtroom was filled with friends and relatives and associates of the Sibella family. And they all are like staring daggers at me as I walk up to the front. You know, they asked me these questions which they’d already grillws me the night before. They asked me the questions of what did I say, you know, Oscar Goodman gets up. And he’s like, Well, officer, Did you know, Did you see this? Officer? Whoever you sitting with us? Or How far away were you from Mr. Civella? Well, the officer, could you see exactly what was on that piece of paper? No. Well, officer, what did you see him tear out? I don’t know. You know, it was it was like he tore something out and handed to the guy. Okay, number no further questions like, oh, okay, I’m done. I’m out of here. I figured he tried to browbeat me and tried to make me look stupid. But you know, he didn’t he just asked me to the questions that you would ask.

He’s quite playful in this cross examinations. From what I’ve read.

He covered the bases, you know, he made sure that I was not making this up. Because like I said, the US attorney had sat me down the day before and browbeat me. I mean, they were like almost yelling about this and that and trying to catch me up and what I would say, so they had me prepared for Mr. Goodman. All right. Well, one do a story on him a lot more about his career. I’ll make some notes on that. And I know you you’ve looked up to a lot of that stuff. One of the best cases of Oscar Goodman, before we go here is a Jimmy Chagra case that that whole Jimmy Chagra story and he got that dude not guilty for paying the man who killed judge Woods down in Texas, a federal judge. And there’s and they had several witnesses that, you know, said he did it, but he got him guilty. It was Wow.

That was impressive. That was phenomenal success. That was a phenomenal victory. It was.

Alright, Tony, I really appreciate you coming on here. And some more of these some of these other mob lawyers. A tip of the hat all you guys down to under because guys, if you didn’t notice, Tony is an Australian. And he’s coming from down under. So I know I got a lot of Aussie fans. And so they’ll be really excited to hear your voice on the podcast. I’ll let you know whatever their feedback is. It’ll be interesting. Guys, remember, I like to ride a motorcycle. So if you are out driving around, make sure you watch out for motorcycles. And if you have a problem with PTSD, and you’ve been in a service or you know somebody that has a problem with PTSD, and they’ve been in the service, go to the VA website and get that hotline number, and you got a lot of help there. Tony, thanks a lot for coming on. I really appreciate it. Thank

you. Thanks for having me. Thank you. Thanks for having me. Thank you. Thanks for having me. Thank you. Thanks.


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