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Michael Cohen Sent Back to Prison After Not Agreeing to Conditions of Home Confinement

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Michael Cohen Sent Back to Prison After Not Agreeing to Conditions of Home Confinement

2020-07-10 10:15:01

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Michael Cohen (Image source: Screenshot)

Michael Cohen finally had what he had been searching for for an entire year, but he wasted the opportunity. Donald Trump's former personal attorney tried everything he could to avoid prison, and after he was finally an inmate, he tried everything he could to get released. Finally granted an early release because of COVID-19, he has violated the conditions of his release and is back in federal custody.

One of Cohen's legal advisers, Lanny Davis, said Cohen balked at first over a Bureau of Prisons requirement to his release that he not talk to reporters, not use social media, and not write a book while he was on home confinement.

However, a Justice Department official disputed this and said the former attorney "refused electronic monitoring," though Davis and Cohen attorney Jeffrey Levine disputed this.

The official added, "It's not that he can't do media interviews. It's that he has to get preapproval for them."

The Washington Post obtained documents that show the requirement Cohen was asked to agree to was much more stringent than what the official described. In addition to consenting to electronic monitoring, he had to agree to "no 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. No posting on social media and a requirement that you communicate with friends and family to exercise discretion in not posting on your behalf or posting any information about you."

"The purpose is to avoid glamorizing or bringing publicity to your status as a sentenced inmate serving a custodial term in the community," the documents explained. They also show seven other conditions. These include not having contact with convicted felons, getting prior approval for employment and to attend religious services, and only family members doing the shopping.

A memo from a residential reentry manager in New York to the U.S. Marshals alleged that Cohen "failed to agree to the terms of Federal Location Monitoring," but didn't spell out which terms. It asked that he be taken to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.

The Bureau of Prisons alleged in statements that Cohen had "refused the conditions of his home confinement but didn't report which ones.

This took place less than two months after Cohen's early release from federal prison as part of an effort on the part of the Justice Department to stop the spread of COVID-19 among inmates. Cohen had been serving a three-year term for financial crimes and lying to Congress.

Cohen initially took a plea deal in 2018 in two separate criminal cases. He admitted to campaign finance violations in one that stemmed from payments he made before the 2016 presidential election to two women who alleged they had affairs with Trump. In the second case, he admitted to lying to Congress about a Moscow real estate project Trump was pursuing while also pursuing the presidency.

Cohen has heaped much blame on Trump. Known as Trump's "fixer," he said he felt it was his duty to cover up the "dirty deeds" of the president.

Though he admitted guilt, he hoped to avoid prison by turning on Trump, repeatedly. Finally entering prison in May 2018, he focused on getting out early, most recently expressing fears of becoming infected with the novel coronavirus.

Prosecutors objected to his release, and U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III rejected the request. Barr, though, pushed to release more inmates after being given the authority to do so by Congress.

While Davis does not formally represent Cohen, he said Cohen had been scheduled to meet with probation officers on Thursday to get an ankle bracelet as part of a bureaucratic transition from "furlough" to "home confinement." He reported that Cohen had told him earlier on Thursday that he had to "sign some papers and to get my ankle bracelet."

He explained Cohen was then given a list of conditions and objected, pointing out that he could correspond with reporters even while in prison. Additionally, he's already written a tell-all book about his relationship with the president.

Davis reported that Cohen said, "But the book is already done, and I'm not giving up my First Amendment rights to talk to the media, to use social media, and especially, to publish a book." Levine, having been with Cohen during the discussion, confirmed that this is how it went down.

"My client says, 'I've never heard of anybody losing their First Amendment rights,' " said Levine. Davis added that the restrictions would have lasted through 2021, the initial term of Cohen's sentence.

Levine and Davis reported that the probation officers left, and then about 90 minutes later, U.S. marshals came and began putting Cohen in shackles. Levine said his client objected, saying they were still discussing the restrictions and waiting for the probation officers.

He added that the marshals responded, "We have our orders. We can't do anything except take him away." According to Levine, Cohen even offered to sign the conditions at one point "as-is," but was told it was too late for that.

"I protested, and I said, 'This just doesn't make sense here," said Levine. He added that he's looking into asking the Bureau of Prisons, and possibly the court system as well, for Cohen to be released.

"He never refused to sign anything," Levine said. "It was a conversation. It was an ongoing conversation."

Cohen was photographed last week by the New York Post eating outside the Le Bilboquet restaurant near his apartment. There was speculation that he was violating the terms of his release. Levine said that was not discussed on Thursday, and that was not addressed in the Bureau of Prisons' statement.

Of that incident, Davis said Cohen believed going to the restaurant "was not a violation of any rules, and he was never told that it was a violation of any rules." He'd spoken with Cohen directly regarding the matter, and "he believed it was consistent with the rules, or he wouldn't have done it." 

According to the Bureau of Prisons' website, more than 6,700 inmates have been moved to home confinement because of the coronavirus pandemic. The question is, were all 6,700 asked to sign the same agreement as Cohen?

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