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Judge Orders Former Trump Lawyer Michael Cohen Released From Prison

A federal judge found that Michael Cohen's return to prison earlier this month was a violation of his First Amendment rights. Cohen, shown here on release in May, had previously been granted home confinement due to coronavirus concerns.
A federal judge found that Michael Cohen's return to prison earlier this month was a violation of his First Amendment rights. Cohen, shown here on release in May, had previously been granted home confinement due to coronavirus concerns.

Updated at 6:33 p.m. ET

A federal judge has ordered that President Trump's former personal attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, be released from prison to home confinement. He found that Cohen's recent return to prison was retaliation for plans to publish a tell-all book.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein sided with a lawsuit from Cohen's attorneys saying that the conditions of Cohen's home confinement — that he not speak to the media or publish a book — violated his First Amendment rights. Hellerstein ordered Cohen to be released by 2 p.m. ET Friday.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons released a statement saying, "Any assertion that the decision to remand Michael Cohen to prison was a retaliatory action is patently false." It denied that his intent to publish a book played a role.

The statement said people being supervised at home have to accept certain conditions and "Mr. Cohen refused to agree to the terms of the program, specifically electronic monitoring." The bureau also noted that Cohen was argumentative and wouldn't accept rules on self-employment, access to the media and use of social media.

The judge gave both parties one week to agree to terms of Cohen's home confinement.

According to his attorneys, Cohen has been held in solitary confinement since he returned to federal prison earlier this month. He was initially released to home confinement in May over concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic. His attorneys said hypertension and respiratory issues put him at greater risk.

He is writing a book about his time working with Trump. Cohen was taken back to prison earlier this month, and federal authorities at the time said he refused the conditions of his release.

Attorneys for Cohen, including the American Civil Liberties Union, filed a lawsuit saying his reimprisonment was in retaliation for plans to publish a book that they say "provides graphic details about the President's behavior behind closed doors." They said it was also a violation of his First Amendment rights.

Cohen's attorneys noted that he had made no secret of his intention to release the book, including plans to seek a publication date weeks before the 2020 election.

The ACLU said in a statement that the Trump administration has a history of attempting to block books from his critics, including former national security adviser John Bolton.

Cohen's return to prison was "part of a dangerous pattern of retaliation against Trump critics," said Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU's Speech, Privacy and Technology Project.

Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison in 2018 after he pleaded guilty to multiple crimes, including lying to Congress and campaign finance violations over hush money payments made to women who alleged to have had sexual relations with Trump. The president has denied those affairs.

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