Judge denies Michael Cohen's bid to leave prison due to coronavirus

U.S. District Judge William Pauley III denounced Cohen's request as "just another effort to inject himself into the news cycle."
Image: Michael Cohen, former personal attorney to President Donald Trump, testifies before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform on Capitol Hill on Feb. 27, 2019.
Michael Cohen testifies before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform on Capitol Hill on Feb. 27, 2019.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters file

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By Tom Winter

A federal judge has denied Michael Cohen's request to get out of prison early due to the coronavirus pandemic, assailing the bid as "just another effort to inject himself into the news cycle."

Cohen, President Donald Trump's former lawyer, was seeking to have his sentence reduced or to serve the balance of his term in home confinement.

“Ten months into his prison term, it’s time that Cohen accept the consequences of his criminal convictions for serious crimes that had far reaching institutional harms," U.S. District Judge William Pauley III wrote in an order filed Tuesday in the Southern District of New York.

Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison in late 2018 after pleading guilty to several crimes, including making secret payments to women who claimed they had affairs with Trump, and lying to Congress about the president's business dealings with Russia.

The 53-year-old Cohen is serving his sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution, Otisville, in upstate New York.

Cohen’s lawyers had argued that the federal Bureau of Prisons is “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 the virus.”

Pauley was unmoved by the argument. "Apparently searching for a new argument to justify a modification of his sentence to home confinement, Cohen now raises the specter of COVID-19," the judge wrote.

Pauley wrote that he weighed Cohen’s efforts to cooperate after his sentencing and noted that prosecutors say he made “material and false statements” to them even after he was given his prison term.

Pauley also criticized Cohen for attacking the attorney general and prosecutors who worked the case.

"Unable to articulate how he advanced any investigation or prosecution, Cohen and his surrogates make extravagant allegations that the Department of Justice—from the Attorney General down to line prosecutors—acted in bad faith," Pauley wrote.

“Those ad hominem attacks lack any substance and do not trigger the right to a remedy or a hearing before this Court."

Cohen had asked the judge to have his sentenced reduced to 12 months and a day or to spend the rest of his term in home confinement. His lawyer, Lanny Davis, did not immediately return a request for comment.