President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen is allowed to write his book, speak to the media, and use social media during the remainder of his sentence in home confinement, according to a new agreement filed on Thursday.
The agreement between Cohen and federal prosecutors did not contain restrictions on the former lawyer’s free speech but requires him to abide by home confinement conditions such as returning to the residential reentry center at least twice a week, not to consume alcoholic beverages, not to own or drive a vehicle without authorization, and remain at his place of residence.
“There shall be no specific media provision governing Petitioner’s home confinement,” according to the agreement (pdf), which still requires approval by U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein.
Hellerstein previously ordered the parties to negotiate a media provision that “is consistent with the First Amendment but yet serve the purposes of confinement” after Cohen sued Attorney General William Barr and other officials for placing him back in custody.
He accused the federal government in his lawsuit that he was sent back to prison in retaliation for writing a book that criticized Trump.
Cohen was released to home confinement in May over concerns of the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in prisons.
Days before being taken back into custody, Cohen was seen eating at Le Bilboquet, a restaurant in the Manhattan borough of New York City. Photographs published by the New York Post showed the attorney at a table with two women, including his wife, and another man.
Jeffrey Levine, Cohen’s lawyer, defended the evening at the time, telling the newspaper that Cohen “did not violate any of the terms and conditions of his release … and any assertion or suggestion to the contrary would be wholly inaccurate and untrue.”
In an order on July 23, Hellerstein required the federal government to release Cohen, who was placed in solitary confinement, from a federal prison in upstate New York. The judge sided with the claim that his rearrest was retaliatory in nature.
“I make the finding that the purpose 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,” Hellerstein said at Thursday’s hearing.
While in furlough, Cohen made public statements on Twitter on July 2 that he was finalizing a book about his decade-long experience working as Trump’s lawyer. They said a few days later on July 9, when Cohen visited the U.S. Probation Office in downtown Manhattan in order to transition from furlough to home confinement, federal officials asked him to sign an agreement that prevented him from engaging with the media or prohibited him from posting on social media.
Cohen told the officials that signing the agreement would block him from working on his book and also asked for clarification on what the condition entailed, his lawyers said. He also asked whether the language of the condition could be adjusted in order to better reflect the stated purpose of the condition, which is to “avoid glamorizing or bringing publicity to [Mr. Cohen’s] status as a sentenced inmate serving a custodial term in the community,” his lawyers claimed.
“They stated that they would then send … [the] inquiry regarding the language of the Prior Restraint Provision ‘up the chain of command’ for a decision,” the lawsuit stated.
“Instead, three United States Marshals arrived with handcuffs and shackles and placed them on Mr. Cohen in order to remand him back to prison.”
Cohen is currently serving a three-year sentence for campaign finance violations, tax evasion, and lying to Congress.