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Don't Give Inmates Anything But Advice

By William Vogeler, Esq. on November 22, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Steven M. Cohen apparently was concerned about his client's oral hygiene in jail, so he gave the man a toothbrush.

That resulted in a felony conviction for delivering illegal articles to an inmate. Then the state Supreme Court suspended Cohen's bar license and ordered him to pay $8,600 as a penalty.

So what's the lesson here? If your inmate client has really bad breath, do not give him a toothbrush? Or maybe it's more about timing.

Bad Timing

It was not the first time Cohen had a run-in with authorities. He had a previous misdemeanor for disorderly conduct, and other disciplinary counts stemming from client dispute about fees.

But the toothbrush caper caught the attention of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. It even made the papers.

The Wisconsin Journal Sentinel reported that Cohen was convicted of smuggling contraband in 2014, sentenced to two years' probation and 60 days in jail with work release privileges.

That led the Office of Lawyer Regulation to file four charges of professional misconduct against him, culminating in the contraband case.

The Lunch Bag

According to the disciplinary report, Cohen met his client at the Columbia Correctional Institution with a black bag and a white bag. He told correctional officers the bags contained papers and his lunch.

After Cohen met with his client -- imprisoned for a homicide conviction -- the officers found one bag with an empty toothbrush package inside. They searched the inmate and found the toothbrushes, which reportedly could be fashioned into weapons.

An ethics referee recommended a four-month suspension, and the state Supreme Court agreed. The justices also ordered Cohen to pay the cost of the proceeding, calling the contraband conviction a "very serious offense."

If Cohen was really concerned about his client's teeth, he should have given him the toothbrush before the client went to jail.

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