Attorney to serve 28 days in jail for violating plea agreement

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PORTLAND — A prominent Waldoboro defense attorney will serve 28 days in the Lincoln County Jail after violating terms of a deferred disposition granted for a 2013 domestic violence charge.

Philip Cohen, 45, of Waldoboro was sentenced Wednesday to two concurrent 30-day terms on misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and violation of conditions of release. Having already served two days in jail, Cohen will report to the Wiscasset facility on Monday morning to serve the remaining 28 days.

Cohen was arrested in Waldoboro in November 2013 and charged with domestic violence assault. In December, he was arrested again and charged with disorderly conduct and violation of bail conditions after he allegedly phoned and sent text messages to the same victim.

In July, under the terms of a plea agreement, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and violations of conditions of release. Cumberland County Superior Court Justice Roland Cole granted a deferred disposition, meaning that if Cohen met a number of conditions over the next year, the state would recommend Cohen be fined $1,000 for the two violations, but serve no jail time.

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Among the conditions of the deferred disposition, Cohen was prohibited from contacting the victim unless she agreed in writing to the contact.

Less than 24 hours after Cohen received the deferred disposition, he was arrested for violating the terms of the deal by allegedly assaulting the woman at a cabin in Jefferson.The state did not file new assault charges, but filed a motion to terminate the deferred disposition.

At an Oct. 3 hearing, after the victim testified that Cohen pinned her down on a bed and pressed his fist against her mouth with enough force to make her lip bleed, Cole ruled that enough evidence existed to prove the July assault occurred.

Androscoggin County Assistant District Attorney Andrew Matulis, who is prosecuting the case, argued Wednesday for the maximum sentence of six months in jail — which he acknowledged was “an extraordinary request, but a request made under extraordinary circumstances.”

Matsulis said Cohen had direct contact with the victim, including visiting her house and vacationing with her in Costa Rica.

Furthermore, he said, “Within 24 hours of the deferred disposition, the defendant assaulted (the victim). He gave her a fat lip. He used violence against (the victim) in an extraordinarily short amount of time … There should be serious questions in everyone’s mind as to what was going on. The only way to put an end to it is to impose sentences that are serious.”

Cohen’s attorney, Walter McKee, said the victim had bombarded Cohen with hundreds of text messages and phone calls. He wrote in a sentencing memo that the victim “not only agreed to the illegal contact, but was an active participant in hiding it.”

Prior to sentencing, Cohen spoke directly to Cole, admitting, “I violated bail conditions and I did it a number of times. I made the decision to have contact and I knew I was breaking the law when I did that.”

McKee, who had suggested a sentence of five days in jail, said following the sentencing that he had hoped for less time, but noted, “Clearly, it could have been worse.” He said it was unlikely Cohen would appeal the sentence, although he acknowledged that the Maine Bar Association would likely take some action against Cohen.

Although the crimes took place in Lincoln County, the case was prosecuted by Matsulis, of Androscoggin County, and heard by Cole in Cumberland County in part because several judges and district attorneys in other parts of the state have histories with the high-profile defender and recused themselves.

Cohen has served as the defense attorney in a number of high-visibility cases, such as those involving convicted murderers Todd Gilday and Guy E. Hunnewell.

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