Michael Cohen arrives at his Park Avenue home after being released from federal prison on furlough due to medical concerns related to Covid-19 on May 21, 2020 in New York City.
David Dee Delgado | Getty Images
A federal judge on Thursday ordered the release from prison of President Donald Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen by Friday afternoon.
Judge Alvin Hellerstein found that Cohen was sent back to prison on July 10 in retaliation for failing to agree a day earlier to not to publish a book about Trump as one of multiple conditions for serving the remainder of his three-year prison term on home confinement.
Cohen had been furloughed from prison in late May due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, and shortly before being taken into custody had been posting on social media about his upcoming book, which is going to be critical of Trump.
“I’ve never seen such a clause, in 21 years in being a judge,” Hellerstein said at a Manhattan federal court hearing, where he questioned the condition that Cohen not publish a book while in home confinement.
“How can I take any other inference but that it was retaliatory? “the judge asked.
During the hearing, the judge was highly skeptical to arguments by a federal prosecutor that Cohen was not locked up in retaliation for the book.
Hellerstein also repeatedly said that federal Probation officials had not given Cohen a warning that if he did not agree to all the conditions presented to him at a July 9 meeting with his lawyer that he would be sent back to prison.
“Mr. Cohen was never given a chance to say, ‘If this is it, I will sign,’ ” Hellerstein said.
Cohen, who has been in quarantine in the prison in Otisville, N.Y., since his arrival there, will be released by 2 p.m. after begin tested for the coronavirus, and will be driven back to his home on Manhattan’s Upper East Side by his son, Hellerstein said.
After his release into home confinement, he will be subject to a number of restrictions on his movement and employment and contact with other people.
But the restriction sought by federal Probation officials that he not speak to reporters, post on social media, or publish a book, is likely to be largely gutted.
Cohen’s lawyer and a prosecutor will in coming days negotiate the issue of any restrictions on Cohen dealing with the media. Hellerstein suggested it would be inappropriate for Cohen to host a press conference in his apartment with a large number of reporters to discus his book while at the same time still serving his criminal sentence.
Cohen, 53, pleaded guilty in 2018 to multiple financial crimes, as well as to lying to Congess about an aborted bid to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. He also pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations related to faciliating hush money payments to two women, porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal, who say they had sex with Trump.
The president denies their claims, but he and his company reimbursed Cohen for the $130,000 payment that the lawyer made to Daniels to keep her quiet about her allegation shortly before the 2016 presidential election.
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