Attorneys representing Michael Cohen asked a federal judge on Monday to grant his immediate release from prison, claiming that the president’s former personal attorney was taken back into custody over his planned tell-all book about his years working for Donald Trump.
The petition – filed by Cohen’s lawyers and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in the Southern District of New York – alleges that Attorney General William Barr, the director of the Bureau of Prisons (BOP), and the warden of the federal prison where Cohen was being detained, unconstitutionally orchestrated his re-arrest in retaliation over his book.
“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 stated.
“The First Amendment forbids Respondent from imprisoning Mr. Cohen in retaliation for drafting a book about the President and for seeking to publish that book soon.”
Cohen earlier this month was prepared to convert his pandemic-related prison furlough to home confinement when he was presented with an agreement that prohibited him from having any contact with news media organizations or from posting to social media.
The prior restraint provision is alleged in the court documents to have been “custom-made” specifically for Cohen, as the document did bear any standard BOP form number and was “riddled with typographical errors and irregularities.”
According to his attorney Jeffrey Levine—who said he had “never seen any language like this in my life”—the U.S. Marshals Service came in and ordered Cohen back to jail for failing to agree with the terms of home confinement.
In fact, the BOP actually encourages inmates to “use their leisure time for creative writing” and permits “the direct mailing of all manuscripts as ordinary correspondence.”
In a declaration to the court, Cohen said that the book, tentatively titled Disloyal: The True Story of Michael Cohen, Former Personal Attorney to President Donald J. Trump, will contain first-hand accounts of the president’s “graphic and unflattering” behavior behind closed doors.
“For example, the manuscript describes the President’s pointedly anti-Semitic remarks and virulently racist remarks against such Black leaders as President Barack Obama and Nelson Mandela, neither of whom he viewed as real leaders or as worthy of respect by virtue of their race. The book will rely upon and publish numerous personal anecdotes, many of which will be supported by my collection of documentary evidence,” Cohen declared.
Criminal attorney and Law&Crime legal analyst Julie Rendelman noted that while restrictions on a prisoner’s home confinement are normal, Cohen’s circumstances presented clear constitutional problems.
“Conditioning home confinement on Cohen’s willingness to give up any right to publish a book or speak to the press seems to be a clear violation of the First Amendment,” Rendelman wrote in an email to Law&Crime.
“Further, it appears that these seemingly unprecedented demands were designed to prevent this particular individual from speaking out against the President on information that may be essential to the public.”
Read the relevant documents below.
[image via Yana Paskova/Getty Images]
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