Jul 23, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Judge orders Michael Cohen to be released to home confinement

Michael Cohen stands wearing a mask outside of a car
Michael Cohen in New York City on May 21. Photo: David Dee Delgado/Getty Images

A federal judge on Thursday ordered President Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen to be released from prison and into home confinement, ruling that the Justice Department retaliated against him over his planned tell-all book about the president.

Catch up quick: Cohen was released from federal prison in New York in May to serve his three-year sentence at home due to the coronavirus pandemic. But he was imprisoned again this month after officials said he refused the conditions of his home confinement, including by writing his book. The judge ruled that DOJ's actions curbed Cohen's First Amendment rights.

What they're saying: "“I’ve never seen such a clause in 21 years of being a judge and sentencing people and looking at terms of supervised release,” District Judge Alvin Hellerstein said at Cohen's hearing. "Why would the Bureau of Prisons ask for something like this ... unless there was a retaliatory purpose?"

Cohen's attorney Danya Perry said in a statement

“This order is a victory for the First Amendment and we appreciate the Judge’s ruling confirming that the government cannot block Mr. Cohen from publishing a book critical of the president as a condition of his release to home confinement. This principle transcends politics and we are gratified that the rule of law prevails.”

What's next: Cohen is scheduled to be released by 2 p.m. Friday, per AP. The president's former fixer has reportedly "been in isolation at an Otisville, New York, prison camp."

The big picture: Cohen was sentenced in 2018 after pleading guilty to campaign finance violations, tax evasion and lying to Congress — charges that stemmed from the Mueller investigation.

  • He claimed that Trump directed him to pay hush money to women with whom allegedly Trump had extramarital affairs, and admitted to lying to Congress about the extent of Trump's involvement in a Moscow real estate project.
  • Cohen's book plans to address "Trump’s personality and proclivities, his private and professional affairs, and his personal and business ethics," according to his lawsuit against the Justice Department.
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