Michael Cohen leaves the Manhattan District Attorney’s office on March 19, 2021 in New York City.
Michael M. Santiago | Getty Images
Michael Cohen, the former personal attorney and fixer of ex-President Donald Trump, has sued the US government for $20 million over a claim that he was illegally sent back to prison last year in retaliation for planning a book about Trump.
Cohen accuses the government of false arrest, false incarceration and wrongful incarceration in a claim filed against the US Bureau of Prisons.
Cohen, 54, says he suffered “emotional pain and suffering, mental anguish and loss of freedom” when he was sent back to a federal prison in July 2020, just weeks after being discharged early over concerns about his risk of Covid- 19.
Cohen’s attorneys are preparing a second claim alleging then-Attorney General William Barr and BOP director Michael Carvajal violated his First Amendment right to free speech by sending him back to prison.
The filing comes nearly a year after a Manhattan federal court judge, which ordered Cohen’s release after more than two weeks, ruled that Barr and Carvajal’s goal of sending Cohen back to prison “was retaliatory in response to Cohen’s killing.” intended his First Amendment rights to publish a critical book about the president and discuss the book on social media.”
The government has six months to respond to Cohen’s claim. If it doesn’t respond, he could file a lawsuit against the government and other defendants.
The Bureau of Prisons did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Cohen declined to comment on the matter.
His attorney, Jeffrey Levine, said in a statement, “Mr. Cohen was the personal attorney for the President of the United States and if he could be thrown in jail for writing a critical book of the president, one wouldn’t have to go far.” before we realized that such unacceptable and constitutionally violating behavior could be directed against any of us.”
“That’s no exaggeration and not acceptable,” Levine said.
Levine told The Washington City Times that Cohen has made requests under the Freedom of Information Act seeking documents “leading to the retaliation” against him, but “nothing meaningful has been provided” by the government.
“The declaration” [of a claim] …is the beginning of our quest for the truth,” Levine said in an email. “That is the arming of the Justice Department by the former president and his accomplice AG William Barr, and holding them accountable for their deeds.”
Cohen, who served Trump loyally for years, pleaded guilty to multiple federal crimes in 2018.
Those include campaign finance violations related to hush money payments to women who said they had sex with Trump, lying to Congress about plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, and financial crimes.
Cohen also became a harsh critic of Trump, cooperating in several investigations of the then president.
On Thursday, the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, were brought before the Manhattan Supreme Court on charges of plotting to evade taxes on executive compensation, including Weisselberg. Cohen assisted the Manhattan District Attorney’s investigation, which led to that prosecution.
Cohen went to prison in early 2019 after being sentenced to three years behind bars. But in the spring of 2020, he was given leave of absence due to concerns that he was at particular risk for the coronavirus due to pre-existing health conditions.
Shortly after his release, Cohen and his attorney were called to a meeting with federal probation officers in Manhattan on July 9 to discuss the terms of his house arrest, which he was serving in lieu of his jail term.
Cohen was taken into custody that day and returned to prison in Otisville, New York, after objecting to the condition that he not publish a book, about Trump or anyone else, while serving the remainder of his sentence under house arrest. .
“I’ve never seen a clause like this in the 21 years that I’ve been a judge and sentenced people,” Judge Alvin Hellerstein said during a hearing where Cohen’s lawyers asked for his release. “How can I draw any conclusion other than that they were retaliatory measures?”
Last year, the BOP had said, “Any claim that the decision to send Michael Cohen to prison was retaliatory is manifestly false.”
“While it is not uncommon for BOP to impose certain restrictions on inmates’ contact with the media, Mr Cohen’s refusal to agree to these terms played no part in the decision to detain him here, nor did he his intention to make a book.”