Sports Book Scene

Sleazy Government Tactics Surface Again in Pre-trial Motions of Jay Cohen Case

Desperation shots by basketball players who launch court length missiles generally wind up ricocheting off the top of the backboard, or landing in the tenth row of seats.

The same desperation is apparent in pre-trial tactics by the government as it tries to prosecute Jay Cohen for operating what the Department of Justice alleges is illegal bookmaking, from his Antigua-based off shore sports book, World Sports Exchange (WSEX).

And the government’s success rate in its sleazy attempts to stifle free expression is on a par with those errant heaves that rarely find their way into the hoop.

In a virtual instant replay of last month’s failed attempt by the DOJ to blatantly and arrogantly try to restrict the defense’s opening statement, once again prosecutors are trying to cripple Cohen’s’ line of defense.

Monday, DOJ lawyers submitted a motion to the judge seeking a ruling that sports betting in New York State is not legal. It contends that the relevant statute, “as matter of law has no application to any of the counts in this indictment.”

This desperate and venal attempt at legal manipulation exposes the weakness of the government’s position, as well as its transparent effort to tilt the playing field in its favor.

Fortunately for the judicial process, the judge wasn’t buying the government’s ploy the first time it was tried. He lectured DOJ lawyers that the court has a tradition of being liberal in what it allows defendants to say in their own defense.

Cohen’s attorney filed their response Tuesday, and a ruling is expected by Monday. We hope the judge is still resistant to the DOJ’s reliance on legalistic smoke and mirrors as a way to try the case.

Neither Jay nor his legal team is commenting on this latest development. However, sources close to the case who support Cohen, observed that the DOJ’s strategy is not only scurrilous, but reflective of a fear that the line of defense they are trying to shut down could be effective.

Veteran jurists we checked with say they have never seen such a concerted effort by the government to try and stop a defendant from articulating his story.

The trial is slated to get underway in federal court in Manhattan on February 14.

The case has dragged on for two years. During the interim, others facing similar charges have all settled via plea bargains. Jay Cohen has steadfastly refused such an option, insisting that he has done nothing wrong, and certainly committed no crime by opening and operating a legally licensed sports wagering business in Antigua.

As prosecutors nervously try to limit Cohen’s defense, their actions reveal a reluctance to try this case on its merits. Could it be these “defenders” of the Constitution and our Democracy are playing with two pair into a full house?

One issue that gets lost in the shuffle is the government’s insistence on criminalizing the behavior of American entrepreneurs such as Cohen. Off shore and Internet gaming are becoming hugely successful areas of global commerce. Estimates for growth are so promising, they make many investors drool.

But if the government is successful in convicting Cohen, it will preclude Americans from participating in this business. The gaming public will continue to do business with companies run by U.S. citizens who, most intelligently, choose not to identify themselves.

The net result will be a perpetuation of the status quo, in which American principals of off shore companies are forced underground.

This is the ultimate anti- consumer position. Instead of cleaning up an industry that has known consumer fraud, the government contributes to a business climate in which customers cannot know with whom they are dealing.

WSEX was run by Cohen who made no attempt to hide his or his associates’ identities, backgrounds or how to contact them. He did not partake of the standard modus operandi of other Americans who use multiple names, operate as consultants and advisors, and set up shell companies as a means of protection.

Watching the DOJ use legal tactics that are consistent with those found in totalitarian regimes, it is a reminder that Freedom, Justice and the American Way are more likely to be present in comic books featuring superheroes than in a court of law featuring government attorneys.

Please send questions, comments, etc., | February 9th, 2000

– – – – – – – – – – – –About the writer
A long time sports betting columnist, Buzz Daly

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