Ex-Goldman Banker Cites COVID-19 In Bid To Avoid Prison

By Emilie Ruscoe
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Law360 (May 21, 2020, 6:58 PM EDT) -- A former Goldman Sachs banker who copped to sharing corporate secrets with a supervisor's acquaintance told a New York federal judge Wednesday that given the pandemic, he should be sentenced to supervised release and a year of community service.

Bryan Cohen, a French national who pled guilty in January to conspiring to commit securities fraud, asked U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley to consider "a substantially downward variance" from federal sentencing guidelines, under which Cohen would ordinarily face 30-37 months in prison.

Cohen cited his asthma as a key factor that should inform Judge Pauley's decision, highlighting that the respiratory condition augmented the health risks he faces amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He said an appropriate sentence would be two years of supervised release on top of the seven months of home confinement he has already served, in addition to 2,000 hours, or about a full-time year, of community service.

If Judge Pauley decides that additional confinement is necessary, Cohen said, he should do that home confinement in France.

Cohen is one of three criminal defendants who have pled guilty or been convicted in connection with a massive insider trading ring. Businessman Telemaque Lavidas was convicted by a jury, and trader Marc Demane Debih is cooperating with prosecutors.

At least four others face criminal charges. Of those four, only one, Joseph El-Khouri, has been taken into custody. El-Khouri is in the United Kingdom, awaiting possible extradition to the United States. Three other defendants — Georgios Nikas, Benjamin Taylor and Darina Windsor — are at large.

In his 81-page sentencing memo, Cohen characterized his participation in the insider trading ring as limited, and he said the occasions on which he used a "burner" phone to pass trading intel to Demane were isolated incidents. Cohen also said he cut Demane off two years before finding himself in prosecutors' crosshairs.

He also highlighted that he had accepted responsibility for his actions following his October 2018 arrest. He said he lost his job at Goldman in December, and he expects to be barred from working in the securities industry by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in connection with a related enforcement matter. Cohen faces "certain deportation" from the United States, he said, which will also affect his partner Olga, whom he supports financially.

"Such a sentence would be sufficient but not greater than necessary," Cohen said, adding that he had led an "otherwise exemplary life defined by hard work and selfless acts." He described himself as "a deportable, non-violent, first-time offender with a pre-existing medical condition listed as a primary risk factor for COVID-19."

The 34-year-old's sentencing memo cited Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance and media reports on the spread of the virus to underscore his contention that he faced a disproportionate risk of poor health should he become infected.

Cohen, whose legal team is helmed by prominent criminal defense attorney Benjamin Brafman, said that if he's allowed to do community service, he'd like to tutor disadvantaged youth.

"Bryan's outstanding academic background and extensive experience in tutoring mathematics, physics, chemistry, and English to numerous kids for many years, would be a precious asset to countless underprivileged children," the sentencing memo said. "Bryan has the energy and genuine desire to teach and help children with learning difficulties and/or unstable family units."

The government's deadline for submitting its own sentencing memo in Cohen's case is May 27, and Cohen's video conference sentencing is scheduled for June 4.

Brafman told Law360 on Thursday that they are "hopeful that the judge will impose a fair and compassionate sentence."

A representative for the Southern District of New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

The government is represented in-house by Richard Cooper, Daniel Tracer and Drew Skinner of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York.

Cohen is represented by Benjamin Brafman and Joshua D. Kirshner of Brafman & Associates PC.

The case is USA v. Cohen, case number 1:19-cr-00741, before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Additional reporting by Hailey Konnath and Pete Brush. Editing by Haylee Pearl.

For a reprint of this article, please contact reprints@law360.com.

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