AUGUSTA, Maine — Well-known Waldoboro defense attorney Philip S. Cohen, who is charged with violating a plea agreement reached in connection to a 2013 domestic violence charge, was ordered to surrender his passport on Tuesday as he awaits a hearing to determine whether that plea agreement — and his probation — will be terminated.
In a case that has proved difficult to prosecute because a number of Maine judges and district attorneys who know Cohen have recused themselves, Cohen also agreed to avoid contact with the alleged victim pending an Oct. 1 hearing.
Cohen, 45, was arrested in Waldoboro in November 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.
On July 11, Cohen avoided jail time when Justice Roland A. Cole accepted a plea agreement in which Cohen pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct and violation of conditions of release. In exchange, Cole granted Cohen a deferred disposition, meaning that if Cohen complied with a number of conditions for one year, the domestic violence charge would be dismissed.
But less than 24 hours later, Cohen was arrested again and charged with violating bail conditions after allegedly assaulting the same person at a Jefferson camp. The allegation prompted Androscoggin County Assistant District Attorney Andrew Matulis, who is prosecuting the case, to file a motion to terminate the plea agreement and deferred disposition, and revoke Cohen’s probation.
On Tuesday in Kennebec County Superior Court, Cole imposed two new bail conditions: that Cohen surrender his passport to the Lincoln County sheriff by the end of the day Tuesday, and that he have no contact with the alleged victim. Cole set an Oct. 1 hearing to hear the motion to revoke bail and terminate the deferred disposition.
The first new condition is significant because, according to court documents, the victim’s sister alleged to police that Cohen had traveled outside the country twice to the victim’s new home in Central America, in violation of bail conditions, to see the victim, and that on the second visit, he “broke all of the doors in her house and assaulted [the victim] with a frying pan.”
Cohen’s attorney, Walter McKee, said earlier this month that his client “denies each and every one of the allegations.”
Tuesday’s hearing was held in Kennebec County Superior Court, where Justice Daniel Billings presided over several other hearings before stepping aside for Cole to hear motions pertaining to Cohen.
Billings is among several judges and a number of district attorneys who have recused themselves because they know Cohen, who has represented several high-profile clients such as convicted murderers Todd Gilday and Guy E. Hunnewell.
As a result, Maine’s legal system has struggled to schedule a hearing on Cohen’s case because it involves a defendant from Lincoln County, a prosecutor from Androscoggin County, a judge from Cumberland County and a courthouse in Kennebec County. Although the crimes occurred in Lincoln County, Cohen’s case is being prosecuted by Matulis and heard by Justice Cole in Cumberland and Kennebec County courtrooms because of the defendant’s extensive courtroom experience in Lincoln County.
The location of the Oct. 1 hearing remains to be determined.
Matulis said earlier this month that he would await the outcome of the motions to terminate the plea agreement and deferred disposition before deciding whether to pursue new charges based on allegations related to the July incident at the Jefferson camp.
Matulis said the court has several choices if a deferred disposition is violated, but if the court terminates the agreement, Cohen would be subject to an “open” sentencing hearing at which parties could request whatever sentence they believe appropriate within the limits for the class of the crime.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence and would like to talk with an advocate, call 866-834-4357, TRS 800-787-3224. This free, confidential service is available 24/7 and is accessible from anywhere in Maine.