July 21, 2020 / 4:52 AM / 14 days ago

Former Trump lawyer Cohen seeks release from jail, calling it 'retaliation'

(Reuters) - Michael Cohen, U.S. President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, asked a federal court on Monday to release him from prison, saying he was put back behind bars in retaliation for stating his plan to publish a book about the president.

FILE PHOTO: Michael Cohen, the former lawyer for U.S. President Donald Trump, arrives back at home after being released from prison during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York City, New York, U.S., May 21, 2020. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Cohen was released from a federal prison in May due to concerns over exposure to the novel coronavirus.

He had completed about a year of a three-year sentence for his role in hush money payments to two women, as well as for financial crimes and lying to Congress about plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.

But he was imprisoned again this month, which was a violation of his First Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution, his attorneys said in a petition filed in Manhattan federal court against U.S. Attorney General William Barr, the director of the Bureau of Prisons (BoP) and the warden at the federal prison in Otisville, New York. (bit.ly/3hdfmxc)

“He is being held in retaliation for his protected speech, including drafting a book manuscript that is critical of the president — and recently making public his intention to publish that book soon, shortly before the upcoming election,” the attorneys said in the petition.

The offices of Barr, BoP director Michael Carvajal, and Otisville federal prison warden James Petrucci did not respond to requests for comment late on Monday.

Cohen’s book, which he started writing after his conviction, describes his experiences with Trump, and addresses subject matter of “national concern and intense public interest” due to 2020 being an election year, the attorneys said.

While he was out of prison, Cohen had said on Twitter he planned to publish the book before the November election.

The 53-year-old was taken to a federal jail on July 9 after refusing to agree to a gag order as a condition for serving his criminal sentence under home confinement, according to Cohen’s lawyer.

The American Civil Liberties Union and law firm Perry Guha LLP have joined the petition for Cohen to be freed from prison.

Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru and Noeleen Walder in New York; Editing by Robert Birsel

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