Michael Cohen, a Lawrence native and former lawyer for ex-President Donald Trump, has filed a notice of claim against the federal Bureau of Prisons and could sue the government agency for $20 million accusing them of returning him to prison in retaliation for his plans to write a book about Trump.
Cohen, 54, was serving a three-year prison sentence for breaking campaign finance laws, tax evasion and lying to Congress, among other charges in 2018, when he was furloughed from upstate Otisville in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic. His claim charges false arrest, false imprisonment and wrongful confinement.
“It’s disgraceful that there is no open investigation into #Trump #BillBarr and others for the unconstitutional and retaliatory remand of me back to Otisville based on my refusal to waive my First Amendment right,” Cohen tweeted on July 2.
He was first taken back into custody by federal marshals on July 9 of last year as officials said that he violated the rules of his release that included not using social media.
Cohen claimed his return to prison was engineered because of the book. “Disloyal, A Memoir: The True Story of the Former Personal Attorney to President Donald J. Trump” was published last September. Since then Cohen has been doing a podcast called “Mea Culpa,” has made the rounds of news and talk shows and been a constant presence on the social media platform Twitter. Mea culpa is Latin for “through my fault.”
During a July 23, 2020 phone hearing, federal Judge Alvin Hellerstein agreed with Cohen’s claim and rebuffed the prosecutors’ contention that the release form was not tailored to forbid Cohen from speaking with the media. The judge said the only “inference” was retaliation as the reason for Cohen being taken back into federal custody and his May 21 furlough release because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Mr. Cohen was the personal attorney to the president of the United States and if he could be thrown in jail for desiring to write a critical book of the president one’s imagination need not go far before realizing that such unacceptable and constitutionally violative conduct could be directed at any of us,” Cohen’s attorney Jeffrey Levine said in a statement, first reported by NBC News.
The other alleged violation was for being at Le Bilboquet, a French restaurant in Manhattan on July 2, 2020, which is tied to the parameters of the agreement that he cannot leave home without permission. Confined to home, his sentence runs until November of this year.
In a July 4 email to the Herald, Cohen wrote that his dinner being a " proximate cause of the remand,” is inaccurate. "That was purely made up by the NY Post and debunked by Judge Hellerstein," Cohen stated.
Another claim is being prepared by Cohen’s lawyers that alleges that former Attorney General William Barr and Bureau of Prisons Director Michael Carvajal violated his First Amendment right to free speech by placing Cohen back in prison.