Judge orders Michael Cohen released to home confinement, says imprisonment was ‘retaliatory’ over planned book

A federal judge on Thursday said the recent move by the Justice Department to put former Trump attorney Michael Cohen back in prison was “retaliatory” and claimed it was related his forthcoming tell-all book, ordering Cohen released by Friday afternoon to home confinement.

The decision came after Cohen earlier this month was sent back to prison and into solitary confinement at Otisville federal prison in upstate New York after violating the terms of his home confinement.


U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of New York Alvin Hellerstein on Thursday said the move to send Cohen back to prison was “retaliatory” and believed it was related to his book.

Hellerstein said he determined “the purpose of the transferring” was “because of his desire to exercise his First Amendment rights to publish a book and discuss anything about the book.”

“That’s my essential finding and the injunction is against continuing retaliation against Mr. Cohen by keeping him in jail when he should be confined as he was before the retaliation at home,” the judge said.

Cohen and his attorneys accepted conditions laid out by the judge, except for one focused on the book and his use of social media, which is expected to be renegotiated.

“This order is a victory for the First Amendment,” Danya Perry of Perry Guha LLP, who argued on behalf of Cohen at the hearing, said in a statement. “The First Amendment does not allow the government to block Mr. Cohen from publishing a book critical of the president as a condition of his release to home confinement. This principle transcends politics. We are gratified that the rule of law prevails.”

The decision comes after Cohen sued Attorney General Bill Barr for allegedly violating Cohen’s First Amendment rights when he was remanded earlier this month. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) joined Cohen in the suit.

“Today’s important ruling recognizes that individuals retain their right to speak even when they are incarcerated,” Vera Eidelman, staff attorney with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project said in a statement Thursday.  “This is a victory for the First Amendment rights of people in prison, and for the public’s ability to hear from a group of people that is too often silenced in our society.”

“He is being held in retaliation for his protected speech, including drafting a book manuscript that is critical of the President—and recently making public his intention to publish that book soon, shortly before the upcoming election,” the petition read.

Cohen was released from New York’s Otisville Correctional Facility in May amid concerns over coronavirus, and was ordered to serve the remainder of his sentence in home confinement.


But earlier this month, Cohen was taken back into custody after having violated the terms, according to the federal Bureau of Prisons.

“Michael Cohen refused the conditions of his home confinement and as a result, has been returned to a BOP facility,” the BOP said in a statement on July 10. “On May 21, 2020, Mr. Cohen was placed on furlough pending placement on home confinement.”

Reports said Cohen was seen at a restaurant in Manhattan, which raised concerns that he was in violation of his home confinement terms. Levine did not say whether his visit to the New York City restaurant was connected to his latest arrest.

Cohen was convicted of several charges including campaign finance violations in connection with hush payments made to women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump in the past. He started serving his sentence in May 2019 and was scheduled to be released in November 2021.

Fox News’ Marta Dhanis and Louis Casiano contributed to this report. 

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