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Michael Cohen’s Lawyer Says Client Fears COVID-19 Could Cost Him His Life, Cites Pre-Existing Condition


An attorney representing Michael Cohen on Monday urged a federal judge to consider allowing his client to be moved from the federal penitentiary in Otisville, New York to home confinement, citing fears of COVID-19 and Cohen’s underlying medical conditions.

Cohen, who in November 2018 pleaded guilty to eight criminal counts including campaign finance violations, tax fraud, and bank fraud, previously served as President Donald Trump’s personal attorney from 2006 to 2018.

In a letter to Judge William Pauley of the Southern District of New York, Cohen’s attorney Roger B. Adler pointed to President Trump’s Sunday remarks. The president said said he was considering the prospect of issuing an executive order to release elderly, non-violent offenders from the prison population to reduce the spread of the virus.

“The attached news article reflects that Main Justice, and the President, recognize the current risk of serious illness, and potential death to which Bureau of Prisons inmates are exposed, raising serious and deep concerns,” Adler wrote, referring to a Sunday story in the Washington Examiner. “I see no recognition of these aspects of the illness anywhere in the Government’s submission. Indeed, it is my understanding that the Otisville Camp does not have ready access to hand sanitizer for its inmates to avoid contracting the coronavirus.”

Prisons have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic as large numbers of inmates are forced to spend most of the day in close proximity to each other and corrections officers.

According to Adler, Otisville prison has not taken appropriate steps to prevent the spread of the virus among its inmate population.

“We request the Court to seek appropriate input from the Federal Bureau of Prisons documenting the absence of hand sanitizer and the actual living arrangements which Otisville Camp inmates are required to reside in,” he wrote. “The six-foot distancing directed by Dr. Fauci and others is simply not being followed.”

Michael Cohen is 53, so not elderly, but his attorney still said his client’s fear of COVID-19 is real. Citing to Cohen’s previous health conditions, Adler argued that his client was particularly vulnerable to the virus, contending that his 36-month prison sentence should not remain in place at the cost of his life.

“Mr. Cohen has had two hospitalizations, and a pre-existing condition of pulmonary issues,” he wrote. “I reiterate my belief that the coronavirus provides a basis for an appropriate modification of the venue in which his previously imposed sentence will be served, and that the sentence of 36 months should not end up being a capital crime depriving my client of his life.”

Earlier Monday, the government responded to Cohen’s initial request for sentence modification, arguing that he had “no legal basis upon which his claim might be granted.”

It was not the first time Cohen’s lawyer sought home confinement amid the pandemic.

Cohen began serving his three-year sentence in May of 2019.

Read the full letter below:

Michael Cohen Letter by Law&Crime on Scribd

[image via Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/AFP/Getty Images]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.