OTISVILLE, N.Y.- Just days after President Trump commuted the sentence of Roger Stone, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that a federal judge has ordered Michael Cohen released from prison.
He’s claiming the Justice Department had retaliated against him by revoking his home confinement earlier this month, after Cohen was allegedly told the had to give up his rights to publish a book.
Cohen is expected to be released from a minimum-security federal prison in New York around midday on Friday, according to the ruling from U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein, issued Thursday.
Hellerstein slammed federal prosecutors and the Bureau of Prisons for their handling of the situation.
Cohen will now be allowed to return back to New York City and it is expected he will publish a book later this year that Cohen indicated would be a “graphic and unflattering” portrayal of Donald Trump, his former boss.
Cohen was convicted in 2018 on charges which included campaign-finance violations related to his allegedly making hush-money payments to women who claimed they had affairs with the president. He had also pleaded guilty to tax crimes, as well as making false statements
Just this past May, Cohen was released from the same federal prison camp in Otisville, being released to home confinement due to concern about COVID-19. The release came about a year into his three-year sentence.
On July 9, however Cohen was taken back into custody after a dispute regarding an agreement the probation department asked him to sign, which would have prevented him from working on the book concerning his work for the president.
Cohen filed a federal lawsuit in Manhattan federal court in which he accused Attorney General William Barr, as well as federal prison officials of sending him back to prison in retaliation for his plans to publish the book.
A federal judge ordered President Trump’s former lawyer #MichaelCohen to be released from jail and into home confinement, claiming that his return into custody earlier this month was in retaliation for writing a book about Trump. https://t.co/1ygCFn9xey
— The Epoch Times (@EpochTimes) July 23, 2020
The lawsuit which sought Cohen’s release through a court injunction was filed on his behalf by his own attorneys as well as lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union.
The lawsuit stated that on July 9, federal probation officers told Cohen he would have to agree to a complete ban on speaking with the media under any circumstances, including through the publishing of a book.
During a meeting with the probation department, Cohen and his lawyers asked for clarification on the provision—about 90 minutes later, Cohen was taken into custody, one of his lawyers said.
The Justice Department on Wednesday denied Cohen’s allegations, noting the reason Cohen was remanded back to custody was because he was “antagonistic during a meeting with probation officers at which he was supposed to sign the agreement”
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Government lawyers said that the agreement wasn’t intended “to prevent the release” of Cohen’s book. The government claimed that the specific clause in question “was drafted by a probation officer based on a sample he had received from a colleague,” the Journal reported.
Hellerstein said at Thursday’s hearing that he had “never seen such a clause” during his 21-year career as a judge, and believed it was part of an effort “to stop the exercise of First Amendment rights” by Cohen.
Hellerstein in his comments said that it appeared that the action appeared to be retaliation in response to Cohen publicly stating his plans to write a book, and closely followed a New York Post report that Cohen was seen eating at a Manhattan restaurant. “All of a sudden…he is imposed with conditions”
Federal authorities disputed the contention that retaliation was involved, with federal prosecutor Allison M. Rovner saying at the hearing that Cohen was being “combative” in part due to the fact his lawyers were trying to negotiate terms of home confinement, according to a probation officer.
“It is certainly not retaliatory,” she said.
Cohen’s appearance at a restaurant indicated to authorities that Cohen’s alleged health risks were not as debilitating as he had indicated.
Hellerstein noted that Cohen “remains a prisoner” despite the issuance of the injunction, while noting that there would be limits on his freedoms. For example, social media would be allowed while news conferences from his home or communication with felons would not be permitted. The judge directed the government and Cohen’s lawyers to negotiate the parameters of Cohen’s book work. “There’s got to be a limit,” he said.
Cohen’s book, of which he’s been compiling a manuscript while in prison has a working title: “Disloyal: The True Story of Michael Cohen, Former Personal Attorney to President Donald J. Trump.”
Cohen said that book will detail “graphic and unflattering details about the President’s behavior behind closed doors” including alleged anti-Semitic and racist remarks. Cohen also said that book would “describe my negative experience with the American criminal justice system.”
The Wall Street Journal said that the White House refused to comment for their story.
Meanwhile, the Bureau of Prisons issued a statement in which they said, “Any assertion that the decision to remand Michael Cohen to prison was a retaliatory action is patently false,” while saying that Cohen had outright refused to acknowledge or sign the terms and conditions of his home release.
Cohen’s attorneys were pleased with the decision, claiming a victory for the First Amendment.
“We appreciate the Judge’s ruling that the government cannot block Mr. Cohen from publishing a book critical of the president as a condition of his release to home confinement,” said Danya Perry, one of his attorneys.
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