Michael Cohen asks to finish prison sentence at home amid coronavirus outbreak

Citing close living quarters and other hygiene concerns, the president's former lawyer said the Bureau of Prisons was "incapable of safeguarding and treating" inmates.
Image: Michael Cohen, former personal attorney to President Donald Trump, arrives at the Capitol to testify behind closed doors on March 6, 2019.
Michael Cohen, former personal attorney to President Donald Trump, arrives at the Capitol to testify behind closed doors on March 6, 2019.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

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By Lauren Egan

WASHINGTON — Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former lawyer and fixer, is requesting to serve the remainder of his three-year prison sentence at home due to unsafe prison conditions caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

In a letter to District Judge William Pauley for the Southern District of New York on Tuesday, Roger Bennet Adler, Cohen’s attorney, argued that Cohen’s sentence should be modified “as a consequence of the Bureau of Prison being demonstrably incapable of safeguarding and treating B.O.P. inmates who are obliged to live in close quarters and are at an enhanced risk of catching coronavirus.”

Prisons and correctional facilities can be overcrowded and unhygienic, making inmates particularly vulnerable to an outbreak of the virus. The tight living quarters can make it hard to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidelines on social distancing, and in many facilities, disinfectants such as hand sanitizer are not allowed due to the alcohol content.

Cohen is serving his sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution in Otisville, New York.

In his letter to the judge, Cohen’s lawyer attached blog posts and articles highlighting hygiene concerns and pointing to other states that have recently taken steps to shrink their prison population in order to protect inmates and those who work in prisons from the deadly outbreak.

The Los Angeles county sheriff, for example, is releasing people from prison early and is asking officers to cite and release people when possible, instead of arresting them.

Cohen, 53, was sentenced in December 2018 on multiple counts of criminal conduct, including making secret payments to women who claimed they had affairs with Trump, lying to Congress about the president’s business dealings with Russia, and failing to report millions of dollars in income.

“In the absence of Presidential leadership, judges should act thoughtfully and decisively,” Adler’s letter continued. “President Trump apparently does not subscribe to President Harry Truman’s observation ‘The buck stops here.’”

Adler appeared to be taking a jab at Trump who resisted taking any responsibility for his administration’s lagging response to the coronavirus outbreak, telling reporters last week “I don’t take responsibility at all” and rating his response “a 10.”

Cohen, who once said he would “take a bullet” for Trump, implicated the president in a felony and testified before Congress to Trump’s character, portraying the president as a corrupt mob boss.