U.S. Supreme Court Chance for Jay Cohen?
By Earl
Anne Lindner in Igamingnews.com writes on the progress of Jay Cohen, of New York City, famous as the only person to be arrested and to go to trail on charges involving Internet gambling. Cohen launched an online betting company he named ‘World Sports Exchange,’ in 1997, in Antigua, in the West Indies. Cohen on February 22 petitioned the United States Supreme Court with a writ of citiorari. The writ, if considered by the Court, would challenge the ruling made, on July 31, 2001, by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which upheld his conviction, on March 28, 2000, for ‘one count of conspiracy and seven counts of violating the Interstate Wire Act of 1961,’ in a New York federal court. Cohen was sentenced to 21 months imprisonment, paid a court ordered assessment of $800 and a fine of $5,000, but is now out on two years of ‘supervised release’ and free on bond pending the outcome of his petition.

His Washington, D.C. lawyer, Ian Gershengorn, said the U.S. government has 30 days to file a response to the petition. After that, Cohen's lawyers, which also include Donald B. Verrilli and Benjamin Brafman, Mark M. Baker and Melinda Sarafa, all of New York, have ten days to react to the government's response.

Four Supreme Court justices will need to vote to consider the writ for the case to be heard. If considered, a favorable outcome for Cohen will take as simple majority of five of the nine Supreme Court justices. 'The Supreme Court is always a long shot, but we think there are compelling issues in this case that have tremendous impact on the gambling industry and obviously on Jay personally, and we think it would be a good case for the court to take,' Gershengorn said, and cited four reasons the Court may view the writ favorably. The Court may see that the lower courts the lower court's interpretation of the Wire Act 'rewrote the statute to cover a range of conduct that Congress didn't want to cover ... It eliminated the distinction between bets and information relating to bets, which was a critical distinction in the statute--one that the off-track betting industry, for example, relies on extensively’ Also, Gershengorn expressed the view that the Second Circuit's interpretation of the Wire Act make it, unfairly a criminal act just to pass information about a bet between jurisdictions where betting is legal. 'Even if both those places didn't want to criminalize the conduct, you still have violated a federal criminal statute, which is a fairly surprising holding,' he said. He also stated that it was irrelevant that Cohen tried to pattern his business after legal operations. The lawyer intimated that the court failed to recognize that in so doing, Cohen wanted to run a legal business where it was permitted. ‘The final reason asserted in the petition, he said, is that Cohen's conviction affects the offshore gambling and off-track betting industries, both of which rely on account wagering,’ wrote Anne Lindner.

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