A judge ruled Thursday that Michael Cohen will be released Friday to home confinement, declaring that the government acted in a “retaliatory” manner by taking President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney into custody this month.
“The purpose of transferring Mr. Cohen from furlough and home confinement to jail is retaliatory and its retaliatory because of his desire to exercise his first amendment rights to publish a book and discuss anything about the book or anything else he wants on social media and others,” Judge Alvin Hellerstein ruled during a telephonic hearing.
Cohen, who was sent home in May amid coronavirus fears, was rearrested and has been held in solitary confinement at federal prison in Otisville, New York, since July 9 after he questioned an agreement that barred him from publishing his book. But the judge’s order means he’ll be released by 2 p.m. ET Friday.
“Just as you wouldn’t have a press conference from a jail cell, you shouldn’t be able to have a press conference from your home. You can communicate, you can discuss, you can post on social media, but you can’t make a confinement into a free person. You can’t make a person confined in jail or at home into totally free person. There’s got to be a limit,” Hellerstein said. Cohen’s attorney called the judge’s order a “victory for the First Amendment.”
The ruling confirms “that the government cannot block Mr. Cohen from publishing a book critical of the president as a condition of his release to home confinement,” Danya Perry, who argued on behalf of Cohen at the hearing, said in a statement. “This principle transcends politics and we are gratified that the rule of law prevails.”
“Michael Cohen is currently imprisoned in solitary confinement because he is drafting a book manuscript that is critical of the President of the United States — and because he recently made public that he intends to publish this book shortly before the upcoming election,” Cohen’s lawyers, who include attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union, wrote in seeking an order for his immediate release.