Trump attorney Michael Cohen, who grew up in Lawrence, gets three years in prison


Michael Cohen, Donald Trump's personal attorney who arranged six-figure payments to a porn star and a Playboy model to buy their silence about their one-time affairs with the president, is going to prison.

U.S. District Court Judge William Pauley slapped the former Five Towner with a three-year sentence in Manhattan Wednesday. Cohen had reportedly hoped for no prison time in exchange for his limited cooperation in the federal probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign. He was also ordered to pay $1.39 million in restitution, forfeit $500,000 and pay a $50,000 fine for breaking campaign finance laws, tax evasion and lying Congress, among other charges. He is to report to prison in March.

Cohen grew up in Lawrence off Central Avenue. His mother, Sondra, was one of several parents who volunteered to fundraise for Hillel, the Jewish Day School Cohen attended. Hillel, which was in Lawrence, merged with the Hebrew Institute of Long Island of Far Rockaway to form the Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway in 1978. His father, Maurice, was an ear nose and throat surgeon. A Holocaust survivor, Maurice and his family escaped from a Nazi concentration camp in their native Poland. The couple live in Boca Raton, Fla.

Several years before he was bar mitzvahed at Congregation Beth Sholom synagogue, also in Lawrence, Cohen was introduced to politics as a youngster by a neighbor who invited him to campaign with then New York City Mayor John Lindsay in Atlantic Beach, Brooklyn and Queens.

Lindsay, who ran for president in 1972 as Democrat after switching his political party allegiance from the GOP, was in Atlantic Beach for a dedication of the John F. Kennedy Memorial at the northbound approach to the Atlantic Beach Bridge.

“He was just another boy who was well liked by his friends, including my three sons,” said longtime Lawrence resident Jacqueline Handel, who was friends with Sondra and also fundraised for Hillel.

A 1984 graduate of the Woodmere Academy, Cohen, 51, was listed as general counsel to Trump in the listing of 100 alumni in 100 years of LWA’s centennial edition in 2012. A year later his job description was executive vice president of the Trump Organization in the 2013-14 school calendar.

He placed a blurb in that calendar that congratulated his daughter, Samantha, then 17, on reaching the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro in the summer of 2013, and raising more than $40,000 for the Eric Trump Foundation and the children of St. Jude’s Hospital. Woodmere Academy merged with Lawrence Country Day School to form LWA in 1990.

Listed as a Democrat for most of his life, Cohen ran as a Republican in an ill-fated bid for the 4th Council District seat on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in 2003. In his candidate statement he said: “I have learned that most people want the same things: an opportunity to be rewarded for our labors, quality education, safe streets and housing, better transportation and sound public spending.” Five years later, he voted for Barack Obama for president.

As Trump ran for president, Cohen’s professional life became more public as it was reported he allegedly made a 2016 pay off to Stephanie Clifford, an adult film actress who works under the name Stormy Daniels, for $130,000 in exchange for her silence after reportedly having an affair with Trump. On April 9, FBI agents raided Cohen’s home, his law office and his bank safety deposit box. Officials said it was related to the Daniels’ payoff.