A federal judge ordered Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen to be released to home confinement after finding that the government had sent him back to prison in retaliation for Cohen’s plan to write a book about the president.
Cohen had been held in solitary confinement in a New York federal prison since July 9th after he was ushered back to prison following a coronavirus furlough in May.
Judge Alvin Hellerstein made the ruling on Thursday, ordering Cohen to be released by 2 p.m. on Friday following a COVID-19 test, CNN reported.
“I make the finding that the purpose of transferring Mr. Cohen from furlough and home confinement to jail is retaliatory. And it’s retaliation because of his desire to exercise his First Amendment rights to publish a book and to discuss anything about the book or anything else he wants on social media and with others,” Hellerstein said.
Cohen was sent back to prison not long after announcing on Twitter that he was putting the finishing touches on a tell-all book about Trump and refusing to refrain from speaking out publicly.
According to NBC News, Cohen’s probation officer told him in early July that under conditions of his home confinement, he would need to sign a document saying that he’d agree to be silent. But Cohen’s lawyers said after they asked for provisions to be made, their client was cuffed and imprisoned not long after.
The form said that Cohen needed to steer clear of “engagement of any kind with the media, including print, tv, film, books, or any other form of media/news. Prohibition from all social media platforms… And to avoid glamorizing or bringing publicity to your status as a sentenced inmate serving a custodial term in the community.”
Judge Hellerstein said the document was like nothing he’d seen before.
“I’ve never seen such a clause in 21 years of being a judge and sentencing people. How can I take any other inference but that it was retaliatory?” Hellerstein said.
What can’t be ignored is the difference in how convicted felons who remain allies of the president are currently being treated compared to Cohen. Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was serving a seven and a half year sentence on convictions related to financial fraud and lobbying violations, but he was released to home confinement in May because of COVID-19. And, of course, Trump swooped in to save Roger Stone, a longtime friend of the president’s, from serving even a day of his 40-month prison sentence. Stone had been convicted of witness tampering and lying to Congress.