A significant business partner of Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s personal lawyer, has quietly agreed to cooperate with the government as a potential witness, a development that could be used as leverage to pressure Mr. Cohen to work with the special counsel examining Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Under the agreement, the partner, Evgeny A. Freidman, a Russian immigrant who is known as the Taxi King, will avoid jail time, and will assist government prosecutors in state or federal investigations, according to a person briefed on the matter.
Mr. Cohen’s conduct was initially examined by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating the 2016 election that led to Mr. Trump’s victory, and then referred to the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan. Last month, federal agents carried out search warrants at Mr. Cohen’s home, his office and a hotel room where he was staying, seeking documents related to his business associates and accountants.
Mr. Trump’s lawyers have been resigned to the strong possibility that the investigation of Mr. Cohen’s businesses could lead him to cooperate with federal prosecutors.
That likelihood could become greater with a business partner of Mr. Cohen’s cooperating with law enforcement.
Mr. Freidman has been Mr. Cohen’s partner in the taxi business for years, managing cabs for him even after New York City regulators barred Mr. Freidman last year from continuing to manage medallions.
Mr. Freidman, who was disbarred earlier this month, had been accused of failing to pay more than $5 million in taxes and faced four counts of criminal tax fraud and one of grand larceny — all B felonies. Each carries a maximum prison sentence of up to 25 years in prison.
Instead, he appeared in court in Albany on Tuesday and pleaded guilty to a single count of evading only $50,000 worth of taxes; he faces five years of probation if he fulfills the terms of his agreement, the judge, Patrick Lynch of Albany County court, said during the roughly 20-minute proceeding.
“Do you understand the nature of the benefit your attorneys have accomplished on your behalf?” the judge asked Mr. Freidman during the proceeding on Tuesday.
“I greatly understand that and appreciate it,” Mr. Freidman replied.
After Mr. Freidman’s guilty plea, his lawyer, Patrick J. Egan of Fox Rothschild, declined to comment. But earlier this year, he said his client “considers Michael a very good friend and a great client.”