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Despite Promises of Early Release, Michael Cohen Still in ‘Functional Equivalent of Solitary Confinement’


Michael Cohen has not, in fact, been released from prison as his attorneys had hoped, according to his legal advisor.

“Following promises and published expectations, Michael Cohen remains in effect in solitary confinement, under quarantine, rather than under home confinement as he was led to believe would occur yesterday, May 1,” Lanny Davis said in a statement on Saturday.

Davis claims Cohen is scheduled for early release from prison due to the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the particular threat the deadly contagion poses to the poorly-managed and less-than-humane facilities in the federal prison system. Cohen cited communications within the prison system itself as the rationale for that hopeful presumption of imminent release.

However, a Law&Crime examination of Cohen’s court record in the Southern District of New York as of Saturday evening revealed no documentation to suggest a release was imminent. Indeed, the docket suggests the contrary.

In late March, Cohen requested to serve out the remainder of his three-year prison sentence via home confinement citing a preexisting condition that caused him to fear for his life if he were to contract the Coronavirus or its associated disease.

A federal judge rubbished Cohen’s concerns as simply an effort to gin up more press about himself.

“Apparently searching for a new argument to justify a modification of his sentence to home confinement, Cohen now raises the specter of COVID-19,” U.S. District Judge William Pauley III wrote bitterly in response. “That Cohen would seek to single himself out for release to home confinement appears to be just another effort to inject himself into the news cycle. As the Government points out, he is ‘manifestly ineligible’ for compassionate release and has not exhausted his administrative remedies.”

“Ten months into his prison term, it’s time that Cohen accept the consequences of his criminal convictions for serious crimes that had far reaching institutional harms,” the judge said in conclusion. “For these reasons, Cohen’s application to reduce or modify his sentence is denied.”

While the court refused to entertain the idea, the Bureau of Prisons was already working toward moving scores of non-violent offenders out of lockup in order to belatedly stop the spread of the disease. Cohen was apprised that he had, in fact, qualified for home confinement in mid-April, Davis says.

On April 17, Otisville Camp Administrator Robert Scheffler told Cohen and approximately 70 other incarcerated individuals that they should plan for an interruption of some sort in their current sentencing arrangements. Cohen was advised that he would be leaving the Upstate New York facility by May 1, Davis said, citing these purported prison communications.

First Cohen was subject to solitary confinement. His attorneys and family were told that the conditions of his release necessitated a 14-day quarantine in solitary. Those 14 days were over as of the end of April, and Cohen anticipated he would be released and sent home on May Day. That didn’t happen.

“He remains in a cell in quarantine,” the statement notes, “the functional equivalent of solitary confinement.”

Davis said the reasons behind the lag were currently unclear.

“As his friend and legal advisor, and on his and his family’s behalf, we are disappointed not only that there was this delay but that no explanation has been offered to him or his family as to the reason for the delay,” Davis’s statement continues. “We hope that someone in positions of authority gives him and his family assurance that his release under home confinement for the remainder of his term will be forthcoming, for the valid reasons previously announced.”

The statement also offers a revised timeline for President Donald Trump‘s former friend and “fixer.”

“There are published reports that Michael Cohen and the others will be released before the end of the month – at least by May 31,” Davis noted. “We hope this time that will be true – and Michael will be released, albeit under home confinement for the remainder of his term while being safe with his family.”

There’s also a preemptive attack on what Cohen and his team view as the potential of untoward pressure being applied to negate his request.

“We also hope that authorities at the Justice Department and the Bureau of Prisons remain committed to implement the Attorney General’s humane policy during this Covid-19 pandemic crisis, and that no political influences are allowed to interfere that might lead to any further delay,” Davis said.

Cohen’s attorneys have sent multiple letters to the judge who is overseeing his yet-to-be-put-to-bed criminal case; some included news reports of statements made by President Donald Trump to buttress requests that Cohen be set free.

Read Cohen’s court filings across several weeks in the reader below:

Cohen Timeline via Court Fi… by Law&Crime on Scribd

[image via via Eduardo Munoz Alvarez_AFP_Getty Images]

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