Sunday, May 28, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Cohen Sent Back to Prison After Resisting Media & Book Gag

Former Trump fixer Michael Cohen was sent back to prison Thursday before he could publish a book while serving out home confinement because of the Covid-19 threat.

MANHATTAN (CN) — Former Trump fixer Michael Cohen was sent back to prison Thursday before he could publish a book while serving out home confinement because of the Covid-19 threat.

The Bureau of Prisons confirmed Cohen had refused to comply with terms of home confinement as part his placement in the US Probation Office's Federal Location Monitoring program.

"As a federal inmate, Mr. Cohen remains subject to compliance with BOP policy, which includes being subject to electric monitoring and obtaining pre-approval for media interviews. As a result of his refusal to consent to the terms of the program, he was returned to a BOP facility for service of his sentence," a BOP spokesperson in an email said Thursday.

The remand to prison comes a week after Cohen, the former personal lawyer to President Donald Trump, was photographed by The New York Post dining at a sidewalk table outside Le Bilboquet, a French bistro around the corner from his Park Avenue apartment.

Cohen’s confidant and former counsel Lanny Davis told reporters Thursday afternoon in a conference call that, as part of the transition from medical furlough to home confinement, Cohen had reported to the probation office today when he was remanded to prison without warning.

An hour and half after Cohen objected to the conditions of his home confinement, three U.S. marshals put Cohen in shackles, said Davis, attributing the information to Cohen’s current New York attorney Jeff Levine.

Among other terms for serving out the rest of his sentence, Cohen had been forbidden from talking to reporters, posting on social media or publishing a book.

Because he has already finished a book that he intended to publish in the next couple months while in home confinement, Cohen had objections, Davis said.

"He wasn't going to agree, and he did not believe that it was lawful or appropriate for him to give up his First Amendment rights,” Davis told reporters.

Faced with the reality of returning to prison during the Covid-19 crisis, Davis said Cohen quickly changed his tune and agreed to sign the government’s document as given only to be told by one of the arresting marshals, “it’s out of our hands.”

Davis did not know which federal facility Cohen had been taken to Thursday.

Cohen’s personal attorney Roger Adler rejected the premise of the restaurant sighting as any justification to send his client back to prison.

“It’s a big disappointment and it’s a frustration because, whatever the optics may have been, I don’t think they warranted taking such action like this, particularly without the benefit of the right of counsel,” Adler said in a phone interview Thursday.

“It sounds like an unwarranted action ... they should have given them a warning and said, ‘Don’t do that no more,” Cohen’s attorney said. “So it sounds like somebody was looking for a pretext to punish somebody. Last I heard it wasn’t a crime to eat out around the corner from apartment. Apparently now it is.”

Ed Friedland, the district executive at the Southern District of New York, confirmed that Cohen was remanded at the request of Bureau of Prisons.  

Cohen, 53, was reassigned to home confinement on May 20 while serving out a three-year sentence for tax fraud, lying to Congress and violating campaign-finance laws. He admitted to arranging hush payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal for their silence on alleged affairs with Trump.

One year into his stint at the Otisville Federal Correctional Institution, however, more than a dozen fellow inmates at the New York minimum-security prison were diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, leading to Cohen’s release.

The ex-presidential fixer’s attorney tied Cohen’s remand to the major news of the day: a ruling from the Supreme Court that advances a subpoena for Trump’s taxes.

“I’m sure purely coincidental on the day that the president succumbed to a major defeat by the Supreme Court in connection with the Manhattan DA’s attempt to get his tax returns, this was just coincidental that Mr. Cohen got popped,” Adler told Courthouse News.

Adler could not confirm where the Bureau of Prisons was sending Cohen. “I’ve got to find out where they’re going to send him,” the attorney said. “He may well find out, you know the old saying in Brooklyn, ‘payback’s a bitch.’

“He may find that maybe he’s not going to Otisville, or not going to the Otisville camp,” Adler said.

Earlier in the day, the Washington-based Davis tweeted a statement on behalf of Cohen praising the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, which cleared the way for the Manhattan DA's office to obtain Trump's tax returns and other financial records.

“@MichaelCohen212 is pleased that the Supreme court has finally forced @realDonaldTrump to release his tax returns”,” Davis, a lawyer and public relations consultant, posted Thursday morning.

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.