The adoptive father accused of sexually and physically assaulting five of his nine sons will remain behind bars until his case reaches a conclusion.
Hayim Cohen, 38, is facing 10 charges related to the treatment of his sons. He was arrested on Feb. 10 on two of those counts, and the rest were filed weeks later.
Cohen was already out on bond for a 2019 charge where he was accused of sexually abusing a foreign exchange student living in his home.
Prosecutors filed a motion in the 2019 case asking Judge Danilo Lacayo to revoke his bond.
Prosecutor Jana Oswald argued that Cohen violated his bond conditions in two ways: by committing the offense of injury to a child and by misrepresenting his health status to the court.
The state called two witnesses to the stand related to the alleged offense of injury to a child. The victim, in that case, is one of Cohen’s sons.
The state showed a video to the judge that Houston police Detective Miguel Guerra, who is assigned to the case, testified shows Cohen hitting one of his children with a belt on his arms while he was in a defensive fetal position.
Judge Lacayo viewed still images and the video that was taken off of a cell phone, but the video was not published publicly.
Guerra described the child as having his legs up to protect himself and screaming in response. Both prosecution and the defense asked him if the actions in the video fit the requirements for an injury to a child charge. His answers waivered.
“Did you observe this spanking to be particularly forceful?” defense attorney Charles Johnson asked Guerra.
“Yes, sir,” Guerra answered.
“Was this spanking abnormal parental discipline?” Johnson asked.
“No,” he replied.
“Is that normal discipline in your mind, when a child has to take a protective fetal position while being struck by a belt?” Oswald asked Guerra.
“No,” he answered.
Ultimately, Judge Lacayo ruled that the state met the burden of proof that the spanking met the requirements for injury to a child.
Oswald also used the video to argue that Cohen misrepresented his health to the court.
The 38-year-old has told the court that he is in hospice and has two terminal illnesses. He appeared in court in a wheelchair and had an oxygen mask on at his February court hearing. He was not wearing it on Wednesday.
At least one of his adoptive sons told investigators that his father only uses his wheelchair when other people are around and that he has six oxygen tanks he does not use, according to court records. The child also told investigators that he coughs uncontrollably only when he is in court.
“He’s misrepresented to this court his ability to function, to stand, to be present, and that misrepresentation has kept him from being present in court on this case for more than a year,” Oswald argued.
The prosecutor pointed out to the judge that Cohen was standing up unassisted in the video showing the child hit with a belt and had “full access” to his lungs to yell at the child.
“On this video, he is up and down able to discipline another child where he was on a death bed,” Judge Lacayo said. “That shows to me either his health is greatly improving or the defendant is trying to fool the court.”
Judge Lacayo has had Cohen on his docket since the 2019 charge was filed.
“I do remember the hearing where your client was on a bed with an oxygen mask coughing uncontrollably while one of the children was trying to soothe him or help him out, and it was great theatrics that day,” Judge Lacayo said.
He went on to tell defense attorneys that he has asked for Cohen’s health records in the past and found that they were unclear. The judge said he asked for Cohen’s health professionals to testify to his condition. During that hearing on an unknown date, Judge Lacayo said the physicians referenced a terminal diagnosis that Cohen told doctors he suffered from.
“I have never been provided with a definitive answer whether your client is in hospice care or not,” Judge Lacayo said. “Based on what I’ve received, I don’t believe there has ever been a treating physician who has diagnosed him as terminally ill.”
Guerra testified that hospice was at the Cohen home on Feb. 10 when they served a search warrant. He said the hospice worker told him that Cohen was bedridden.
Cohen was arrested that day. Before he was transported to jail, he complained that he could not breathe. He was taken to the hospital and released just a few hours later.
Cohen was taken to jail, and Guerra said intake rejected the man because he said he was on hospice. He was then taken again to a nearby hospital and released a few hours later.
Johnson would not elaborate on his client’s health status.
“Again, I’m not a physician, just a lawyer, but he does appear to have some serious health problems,” Johnson said.
Three of Cohen’s adopted sons were in court in the gallery. Johnson said they have been in contact with them.
“Well, they are his sons,” Johnson said when asked if the boys were in support of their father. “I am not going to discuss any attorney-client communications, though.”
Cohen appeared to have red marks on his face, particularly on his forehead and temple area. When asked, Johnson said he was unsure where the marks came from but thought it was possibly from his oxygen mask.
Judge Lacayo ultimately decided to hold Cohen with no bond until his case wraps up.
He told attorneys that he would make room on his docket because he wanted to hold trial as soon as possible. Oswald suggested the possibility of early 2024.
Cohen is due back in court in June.