Florida criminal-defense attorney Bradford Cohen has built a career by speaking well and speaking plenty. He has faced down Donald Trump as a contestant on The Apprentice; jabbered onscreen with the likes of Nancy Grace and Dr. Phil; and represented rappers, athletes and sundry semi-superstars in court. You probably don’t know his name, but you may well have seen his square jaw and bald dome on TV at some point in your life.
But at the federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Jan. 12, Cohen told the judge he was nearly at a loss for words.
“I just don’t know where we are going,” the attorney said, according to the court transcript. “I feel like I’m on The X-Files.”
Cohen wasn’t far off. Unwittingly, he’d entered a world known to some as “The Birtherverse,” where Barack Obama isn’t considered an American citizen and the planets revolve around Orange County dentist-turned-lawyer Orly Taitz.
Despite the fact the Hawaiian state government issued a statement last year confirming that “Barack Hussein Obama was born in Hawai’i and is a natural-born American citizen,” the “birther” cause—which posits that the president, somehow, some way, hasn’t shown himself to be eligible for office—lives on. A recent Field Poll revealed that 33 percent of California voters believe Obama may have been born outside America. Taitz, a Laguna Niguel resident, has seen nearly every one of her half-dozen lawsuits across the county challenging Obama dismissed (see “Birth of an Obsession,” June 19, 2009), and yet she remains the public face of the movement. In January, she announced she would be seeking the office of California Secretary of State in the 2010 election.
While, after more than a year of trying, self-styled “eligibility” activists such as Taitz are no closer to providing any credible evidence that Obama is a “usurper,” the internal fissures in their movement have steadily grown—which led to the hearing last month in which Taitz, with Cohen’s hired help, squared off against three of her more colorful onetime allies.
The case was Rivernider et. al vs. U.S. Bank National Association, a dispute that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with birth certificates. Taitz herself isn’t even a party to it. It’s a suit filed by Charles Edward Lincoln III, a portly, verbally effusive, disbarred attorney who, from June to November 2009, worked as Taitz’s legal clerk. And it’s about real estate: The Riverniders, a married couple, are attempting, with Lincoln’s help, to prevent their Palm Beach County home from being foreclosed upon.
In October 2009, Taitz signed and filed a request to be added to the case as attorney for Lincoln and the Riverniders. The judge rejected that request on the grounds that Taitz was from out of state and had no local lawyer to vouch for her. When Taitz was notified that an amended version of that request had been filed a week later—bearing what appeared to be her signature—Taitz sent a letter to the court. She hadn’t sent that second request. Her signature, she said, had been forged.
U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Lurana S. Snow then called a hearing to determine whether to punish Lincoln for allegedly misleading the court.
Somehow, though, Taitz ended up on the witness stand, facing questions from Philip Berg, the ex-deputy attorney general from Pennsylvania who was the first lawyer to challenge Obama’s eligibility in court. Berg has called Taitz a “menace” and, in May of last year, filed a slander lawsuit against her. In Fort Lauderdale, though, he was representing Lincoln.
“Isn’t it true that you had relations, sexual relations, in your dental office with [Lincoln] on Nov. 3, 2009?” Berg asked Taitz at one point. Taitz didn’t answer; Snow—for neither the first nor the last time—told Berg the question wasn’t relevant.
Taitz and Lincoln do have a history. “It was a professional relationship to start out with,” Lincoln said on the witness stand. “But frankly, I fell in love with her, and we did have a romance.”
That revelation shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has been paying close attention to Taitz’s travails. In October, Lucas Smith—a convicted felon who had supplied Taitz with what was purported to be Obama’s Kenyan birth certificate and who later had a falling-out with Taitz (see “Birther Defects,” Sept. 24, 2009)—published an “affidavit” that, among other things, quoted Lincoln as confiding that Taitz was “hotter, hornier, wetter, tighter, more of a nympho than I’ve ever met.” In December 2009, Lincoln himself posted on his blog a letter he had sent to the lawyer/dentist, in which he said Taitz, who is married, had wanted Lincoln to live in San Clemente as her “boy toy.”
“I’ll bet you didn’t tell [your husband] what we did on your dentists’ chairs, or if you did, I’ll bet you didn’t describe it in much detail,” the letter read.
In court, Lincoln provided the exact date and time when he says Taitz ended their relationship—9:56 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 4—saying, “it was the worst thing that happened to me in 2009.”
For Taitz’s part, she has never directly addressed the issue of whether she had an affair with Lincoln. In court, Cohen objected every time Berg asked her about it. She didn’t respond to the Weekly’s request for comment for this article, but in an e-mail to the paper in December, Taitz categorically classified everything in Lincoln’s love letter as “garbage and slander.”
She said similar things about Smith, who made a surprise appearance in court on Lincoln’s behalf. He testified that Taitz had asked him to lie under oath when they appeared together at the Ronald Reagan Federal Building and Courthouse in Santa Ana in September. When Taitz later returned to the stand, she repeatedly blasted Smith’s testimony as “perjury” and attempted to attack Lincoln’s credibility by saying he drove a rental car far longer than he should have, on her dime.
In prehearing affidavits, Lincoln never admitted to forging Taitz’s signature. In court, though, he said he did sign her name—but with her permission. During cross-examination, Cohen accused him of changing his story—to which Lincoln’s only defense was carelessness. “You are in fact a Harvard Ph.D., correct?” Cohen asked Lincoln.
“Yeah,” Lincoln replied, “but I’m very imprecise when it comes to Orly Taitz.”
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Taitz denied ever giving anyone permission to write her signature. Snow seemed aghast that Lincoln, a former attorney, would think it was all right to sign as someone other than himself—regardless of whether he had permission to do so. “I’m just baffled,” she told Lincoln. But in her ruling, published Feb. 9, Snow refrained from placing sanctions on either Lincoln or Taitz, reasoning that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to say either one had purposely misled the court.
Reached over the phone earlier this month, Cohen laughed about the “interesting” day in court he had with Taitz. The attorney is used to representing well-known clients, but this one caught him offguard. “Usually I know who I’m representing before everyone starts calling me and telling me the case is high-profile,” Cohen says. “I didn’t have any clue about who she [Taitz] was or what she was about when she called my office.”
This article appeared in print as "Love and Birth: Orly Taitz’s reign as queen of the birthers takes her to a Florida courtroom, where another birther questions her about her alleged dalliances."