U.S. President Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen will be released from prison and will return to home confinement on Friday after a federal judge found he was a target of retaliation for planning to publish a book about the president.
Cohen was sent home from prison in May due to the coronavirus pandemic, but was brought back on July 9th after questioning an agreement that barred him from publishing his book, engaging with news organizations and posting on social media.
Judge Alvin Hellerstein said he had never in his 21 years on the bench seen a provision barring a prisoner from speaking to the media.
Adding, "How can I take any other inference but that it was retaliatory?"
Hellerstein asked the two sides to negotiate the media provision so that "it is consistent with the First Amendment but yet serves the purposes of confinement."
In seeking an order for his immediate release, Cohen’s lawyers wrote:
"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."
Lawyers for the government told the judge that Cohen was "antagonistic" during the July 9 meeting with probation officers.
Hellerstein said Cohen and his lawyer were merely negotiating an agreement.
Cohen, who once said he would “take a bullet” for Trump, was sentenced in 2018 for directing hush payments to porn star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who claimed they had affairs with Trump.
Trump has denied having the encounters.
Cohen served a year of his three-year sentence before being released in May.