Judge orders Michael Cohen to be released from prison

NEW YORK (AP) — A judge ordered the release from prison of United States (US) President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer yesterday, saying he believes the government retaliated against him for planning to release a book about Trump before November’s election.

Michael Cohen’s First Amendment rights were violated when he was ordered back to prison on July 9 after probation authorities said he refused to sign a form banning him from publishing the book or communicating publicly in other manners, US District Judge Alvin K Hellerstein said during a telephone conference.

Hellerstein ordered Michael Cohen released from prison by 2pm today.

“How can I take any other inference than that it’s retaliatory?” Hellerstein asked prosecutors, who insisted in court papers and again yesterday that Probation Department officers did not know about the book when they wrote a provision of home confinement that severely restricted Cohen’s public communications.

“I’ve never seen such a clause in 21 years of being a judge and sentencing people and looking at terms of supervised release,” the judge said. “Why would the Bureau of Prisons ask for something like this … unless there was a retaliatory purpose?”

File photo shows Michael Cohen arriving at his Manhattan apartment in New York after being furloughed from prison because of concerns over the coronavirus. PHOTO: AP

In ruling, Hellerstein said he made the “finding that the purpose of transferring Mr Cohen from furlough and home confinement to jail is retaliatory.” He added, “And it’s retaliatory for his desire to exercise his First Amendment rights to publish the book.”

Cohen, 53, sued federal prison officials and Attorney General William Barr on Monday, saying he was ordered back to prison because he was writing a book to be released before the November presidential election.

He has been in isolation at an Otisville, New York, prison camp, quarantined while prison authorities ensure he does not have the coronavirus.