"I make the finding that the goal of transferring Mr. Cohen from furlough and home confinement to jail is retaliatory and it's retaliatory because of his desire to exercise his First Amendment rights to publish a book and to discuss anything about the book or anything else he wants on social media and with others", Hellerstein said in a scathing finding during a phone conference hearing Thursday morning.
Cohen has been in solitary confinement in a federal prison in Otisville, New York, about 70 miles northwest of New York City. He was taken back to prison earlier this month, and federal authorities at the time said he refused the conditions of his release.
"I make the finding that the goal of transferring Mr. Cohen from home confinement to jail is retaliatory, and it's retaliatory because of his desire to exercise his First Amendment rights to publish a book", he said.
Reports said Cohen was seen at a restaurant in Manhattan, which raised concerns that he was in violation of his home confinement terms. "How can I take any other inference but that it was retaliatory?". He said he was told in April that a lawyer for the Trump Organization, where he worked for a decade, was claiming he was barred from publishing his book by a non-disclosure agreement.
Arguing Cohen should remain in prison, prosecutors also noted he hadn't produced any evidence he would "suffer irreparable harm as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic if he remains incarcerated" and suggested his attempt to once again secure release was merely "another effort to inject himself into the news cycle".
The provisions included a ban on engaging with the media, electronic monitoring and approval for employment.
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"Michael Cohen is now 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.
'In my view, Cohen's behavior and, in particular, his refusal to sign the conditions of home confinement was unacceptable and undermined his suitability for placement on home confinement, ' Gustin wrote.
He was one year into a three-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to campaign finance charges and lying to Congress, among other crimes.
According to court filings, Cohen's book would provide "graphic and unflattering details about the President's behaviour behind closed doors", including descriptions of his "pointedly anti-Semitic remarks and virulently racist remarks" against former President Barack Obama and Nelson Mandela.
For the time being, Cohen's lawyer said he would agree to the imposition of the media gag order pending the discussion so he does not have to wait. He started serving his sentence in May 2019 and was scheduled to be released in November 2021. The president has denied those affairs.