Antigua Comes to Bat for Cohen

20 March 2002

Antigua and Barbuda is adding its support to Jay Cohen's campaign to have his case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

With the help of top U.S. gaming lawyers, the island nation's government has drafted a brief that will soon be submitted to the court.

Cohen, who filed a petition for writ of certiorari on Feb. 22 with the Supreme Court, is seeking to overturn his March 28, 2000 conviction in a New York federal court on one count of conspiracy and several counts of violating the Interstate Wire Act of 1961. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that judgment on July 31. Cohen and a few partners had launched an online wagering business called World Sports Exchange in Antigua in 1997. The site, at, is still operational.

Cohen, who is free on bond, is facing a sentence of 21 months in prison, two years of supervised release, a special assessment of $800 and a fine of $5,000.

Former New Jersey regulator Frank Catania, with the law firm Sterns & Weinroth, said the firm has been retained by the government of Antigua and Barbuda to support Cohen's petition for consideration before the court. Catania, along with fellow Sterns & Weinroth lawyer Nicholas Casiello and Joseph Kelly, a professor of business law at the State University of New York College of Buffalo, will submit a brief on behalf of the Caribbean country.

The brief, which is completed and will be filed shortly, asks the court to hear Cohen's case because it has international ramifications, Catania said. Internet gambling is legal in Antigua.

"The government of Antigua would like to be part of the case," Catania said.

If a writ of certiorari is granted to Cohen, Antigua and Barbuda will file an amicus brief, Catania said. He is upbeat about the chances of Cohen's case being heard.

"I think that the issues presented are such that the court has to consider," he said, "because it's issues the government will probably never take up, and the court has to look at it and say this is an issue we have to decide."

Ian Gershengorn, the lead attorney representing Cohen, said he hasn't seen the final draft of Antigua's brief, but he is glad to have the nation's support.

"The interest of Antigua confirms what is said in our petition, which is that Jay's case raises issues of national and indeed international importance--that it's worthy of the court's attention," said Gershengorn, who is of the Washington, D.C. law firm Jenner and Block. "I think the interest of Antigua as reflected in an amicus brief really does confirm that, and so we're optimistic that will help convince the court that this is worthy of the court's review."

Gershengorn also said the government's response time to the Cohen petition has been moved to April 15. After the petition was filed on Feb. 22, the government had 30 days to respond to it. Initially the government had waived its response to the matter, but on March 15 the court sent a letter to the solicitor general's office asking for a government response to the petition.

That's not necessarily a good sign, Gershengorn said.

"You have to be careful not to read too much into that, but at least it means somebody there read it and thought it was worth having the government respond to," he said.

Anne Lindner can be reached at