Just hours after an arraignment hearing this morning in the case of a gay nightclub arson, the suspect, Musab Masmari, has dropped his public defender and has hired private counsel. Masmari will now be represented by Jeff Cohen.
According to Masmari's former lawyer, public defender Harold Palmer, Mr. Cohen was hired by Masmari's family. I reached out to Mr. Cohen to find out the reason for the switch, and he declined to comment, saying he hadn't even looked at the case yet and my questions were "premature."
This change seems unexpected, and the timing is interesting considering Masmari just had an arraignment a few hours ago. (The court scheduled the next court appearance for March 5 in association with first-degree arson charges for allegedly setting Neighbours nightclub on fire on New Year's Eve.) Mr. Cohen has been practicing law in Washington State since 1981. He specializes in serious felonies and a cursory online search doesn't produce a record of other high-profile clients like Masmari, though he has defended accused sex offenders.