Video of Hudson News mogul shows he’s barely able to speak shortly after he drastically cut inheritance for granddaughter

A stunning videotape of late Hudson News magnate Robert Cohen shows how desperately ill he was when he massively slashed his granddaughter’s inheritance in 2009, as a savage form of Parkinson’s disease left him unable to move, and barely able to speak.

The video excerpts show the newsstand mogul struggling to give yes and no answers — often emitting just wisps of air and grunts — as he is asked about changes to his business, Hudson News, and his will, which was altered to drastically reduce the amount of money he was leaving to Samantha Perelman, the daughter of billionaire Ron Perelman and late gossip columnist Claudia Cohen.

Cohen was so weak as he testified about the changes for a Surrogate’s Court proceeding, a speech therapist had to act as his de facto translator, the video shows.

“Mr. Cohen, did you seek anyone’s advice prior to making changes in your will that impacted Samantha?” a lawyer asked him at one point in the proceeding, which took place shortly after the will was changed.

Cohen uttered something even the speech specialist couldn’t understand.

“He may have just said no, but I’m uncertain,” the therapist said.

Cohen then made some indistinguishable utterances.

“Right now he’s saying yes,” the therapist said.Cohen’s mental and physical health at the time is now the focus of a bitter trial in a New Jersey courthouse, where Samantha is claiming that her uncle, James Cohen, exerted undue influence over her grandfather, effectively putting the family business in his own pocket before the elder Cohen died in 2012 at the age of 86.The disturbing tape, excerpts of which were in the court file in a related proceeding in Manhattan, show the tough-talking business big looking like a shell of his former self.

A West Point graduate with an NYU law degree, Cohen was his usual dapper self in the tape, wearing a black suit, crisp white shirt, solid red tie and snappy cufflinks. His distinguished head of grey was well groomed. But his mouth during most of the testimony hung wide open, closing only when he struggled to speak. Able to blink only with some effort, his big blue eyes were mostly wide open, darting left to right as he followed who was speaking to him. His body, hands, neck and head were otherwise frozen.

At one point on the tape, a lawyer asks him, “Is it your testimony that you never asked James to speak to your lawyer?”

Cohen made some sounds, and the speech therapist says, “I heard no. I heard yes.”

The lawyer says, “I heard no and three yeses, actually.”

The judge in the case Cohen was testifying in, Bergen County Superior Court Judge Ellen Koblitz, rejected Ron Perelman’s claim that he was not capable of handling his own financial affairs.

She ruled that despite his disabilities, he was mentally competent to do so and she blasted Perelman’s lawyers for putting the old man through so many hours of grueling questions. Perelman had been acting in his capacity as the executor of Claudia Cohen’s estate.

Another judge is now deciding a different issue in the fight between Samantha, 23, and James Cohen – whether James was able to exert “undue influence” over his father’s business affairs and amendments to his will that post dated Claudia’s death in 2007.

Some different excerpts from the same testimony were played in the Bergen County case last week.

“If anyone on the face of the Earth was more vulnerable, I have not seen them,” geriatric psychiatrist Dr. Sanford Finkel testified after viewing them.

Lawyers for Samantha have said the elder Cohen’s health woes started in 1999, when he was diagnosed with a rare type of Parkinson’s disease. In 2004, his condition was compounded by kidney cancer.

Samantha is trying to get the judge to throw out her grandfather’s 2009 will, and replace it with a 2004 one, which left her mom over $30 million in cash and valuables. Since Samantha is the main beneficiary of her mother’s estate, most of that fortune would go to her.

It would also allow Samantha to claim a large share of the $600 million James pocketed from the 2008 sale of Hudson News, the newsstand chain Robert had turned into a national brand. James had worked alongside his father there for over 20 years.

Attribution:

Video of Hudson News mogul shows he’s barely able to speak shortly after he drastically cut inheritance for granddaughter
The 2009 video of Robert Cohen shows he needs a speech specialist to help others understand his “yes” and “no” responses to questions over the changes he made to his will that slashed the amount of money left to his granddaughter, Samantha Perelman.
Barbara Ross/Dareh Gregorian
October 22, 2013
New York Daily News
http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/robert-cohen-barely-speak-changing-video-article-1.1492679#ixzz2iZssNvxK

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