NEW YORK (AP) _ The disbarment of Roy M. Cohn is the first derailment of the fast-paced train that has carried the flamboyant attorney since he first came into view in the 1950s as a key aide to Sen. Joseph McCarthy.
The Appellate Division of state Supreme Court, which polices lawyers for the state, disbarred Cohn on Monday, effective immediately, ruling that he cheated clients and lied.
″Simply stated, the four charges involved alleged dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation,″ the court wrote in its decision.
Cohn, quoted by the New York Post in today’s editions, said, ″I feel about as concerned about this as if Hellman’s had called me to say they had come out with a new brand of mayonnaise.
″They’re a bunch of cheap politicians and I couldn’t care less. It doesn’t bother me in the least.″
Cohn, 59, one of New York’s most influential and controversial lawyers, has been a familiar face from the time he was grand inquisitor for the red-baiting McCarthy 30 years ago.
The onetime boy wonder had been facing disbarment since last July, when a lawyers’ disciplinary committee found him guilty of misconduct and recommended that a five-judge panel exile him from the profession.
The matter had been held up for a time after Cohn’s lawyer last year described him as being terminally ill with liver cancer. But in recent months Cohn has proclaimed himself to be in complete remission.
A natty, well-groomed, perpetually sun-tanned bachelor, Cohn has thrived on publicity. He has been a regular at ″in″ watering holes, ushered to the best table while his peers waited behind a rope.
The roster of his clients included Carmine Galante, the short-lived Mafia boss of bosses, and Anthony ″Fat Tony″ Salerno, alleged godfather of the Genovese crime family; fashion designer Halston and Andy Warhol, the pale eminence of pop culture.
Cohn was indicted three times in the 1960s and early 1970s on charges including bribery, perjury, obstructing justice, mail fraud and extortion, but he never was convicted.
In one such incident in 1976, a Florida judge ruled that Cohn went into the hospital room of a dying friend, whisky magnate Lewis Rosenstiel, and tricked him into signing over control of his multimillion-dollar estate.
Also that year, Cohn and his firm were ordered to return $219,000 to an escrow fund they were supposed to administer to benefit victims of a stock fraud.
Those incidents formed the basis of two of the charges that led to his disbarment.
Cohn also was accused of borrowing $100,000 from a client in 1966 and not repaying it until 1984, when the disciplinary hearings were under way and of submitting a false statement while applying for a license to practice law in Washington.
Cohn, son of a state appeals court judge, raced through Columbia University’s Law School by age 20, a year too young to be admitted to practice.
While waiting for his 21st birthday, he worked as a clerk in the U.S. attorney’s office, where he helped to prepare, and later prosecute, the case against atom-bomb spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.
Cohn’s friends include the rich and powerful from all walks of life - Barbara Walters is a friend; the late J. Edgar Hoover and Cardinal Terence Cooke also were Cohn’s pals.
He maintains cordial relations with the city’s top Democratic politicians while at the same time enjoying access to the Republican White House for having worked to get President Reagan elected.
Hundreds of friends from politics and show business attended a birthday party Cohn threw for himself last year at the Palladium disco in New York.
The Palladium is the latest creation of Cohn’s friends Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager. When Rubell and Schrager owned Studio 54, it became Cohn’s home away from home; when they were charged with tax evasion (and ultimately convicted), he helped with their defense.