The Scientology Money Project

Former GPB Capital Holdings Chief Compliance Officer Michael Cohn Pleads Guilty to Theft of SEC Data

                 Michael Cohn

In the latest development at Scientologist-owned GPB Capital Holdings, the firm’s former Chief Compliance Officer Michael Cohn plead guilty today to one misdemeanor charge of stealing government property. Specifically, Cohn stole SEC data concerning its investigation into GPB Capital Holdings.

Cohn’s plea allows him to forego an imminent criminal bench trial.

This turn of events took some by surprise as Cohn, citing his age, health, and the pandemic, had won his prior motions for a bench trial and a speedy trial, this after the US Attorney’s Office had asked the Court for a jury trial and a continuance. A “bench trial” is a trial conducted by a judge and has no jury. The judge makes the decision as to guilty or not guilty.

After granting Cohn’s motion for a bench trial in late August, US District Judge Gary R. Brown wrote:

The parties are directed to appear before the undersigned in person on September 8, 2020, so that these matters can be completed and all pretrial issues may be resolved. A nonjury trial will commence shortly thereafter.

August 26, 2020
/s/ Gary R. Brown
Gary R. Brown
United States District Judge

Cohn was headed towards the speedy bench trial he had demanded. However, Cohn was facing serious prison time if found guilty. The risk of a bench trial for a defendant facing complex technical felony charges, and Cohn certainly was, is that a judge understands the intricacies of the law. There is no jury that will become lost in details or bored by minutiae. It appears that Cohn’s attorney negotiated a plea bargain to avoid the perils his client would face at trial against the seasoned and aggressive Federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York.

Cohn’s guilty plea today gives rise to speculation about a plea bargain in which Mr. Cohn will cooperate with the US Government in any future legal actions against GPB Capital Holdings and its executives.

Michael Cohn’s short-lived criminal career began in October 2018 when he left the SEC to take a $400,000 a year job as the Chief Compliance Officer of GPB Capital Holdings. Cohn was subsequently arrested in February 28, 2019 and released on a $250,000 bond. A  superseding indicted was issued in October 2019. Cohn was charged with felony obstruction of justice, unauthorized computer access, unauthorized disclosure of confidential information, and obtaining information from a government computer under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

We will post court documents on Cohn as they become available. We are interested in what his sentence will be. The last court document pertaining to United States vs. Cohn was filed on August 26, 2020 and granted Michael Cohn his nonjury bench trial. Scroll down to see the PDF. This is an interesting document to read as it wrestles with the questions of  how, and if, to conduct a jury trial in the midst of a pandemic.

This document states that the while the government produced “hundreds of thousands of pages of discovery” the government nevertheless “declined to preview its evidence” in response to Cohn’s motion to dismiss Count Two of the superseding indictment. The inference we take is that Cohn gained some leverage here to use in a plea bargain.

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