Late Monday, attorneys for Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit against United States Attorney General William Barr, alleging that Cohen was imprisoned again for writing a tell-all book criticizing President Donald Trump.
Filed in the Southern District of New York, the lawsuit also names Bureau of Prisons director Michael Carvajal and James Petrucci, the warden of the Otisville, New York federal prison where Cohen is being held.
Cohen’s lawsuit accuses all three men of violating his First Amendment rights by preventing him from releasing his book and demands Cohen’s immediate release from prison.
“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 lawsuit reads.
“The First Amendment forbids Respondent from imprisoning Mr. Cohen in retaliation for drafting a book about the President and for seeking to publish that book soon,” it adds.
In 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to lying to Congress, tax fraud and violating campaign finance laws by paying hush money to two women Trump was accused of having an affair with.
Cohen was then sentenced to three years in prison, of which he served a year before he was released and placed on furlough in May of this year as part of the effort by the Bureau of Prisons to contain the spread of COVID-19 in federal prisons.
The lawsuit states that Cohen has a history of respiratory issues and is therefore vulnerable to the disease.
Cohen was imprisoned again in July and placed in solitary confinement in Otisville after he began tweeting about his book.
According to the lawsuit, on June 26 he tweeted “#WillSpeakSoon” in relation to a New York Times article written about Barr’s efforts to undermine prosecutors in New York. He added that “the article reveals only a part of the full story.”
On July 2, Cohen tweeted that he was in the process of completing his book, adding that the “anticipated release date will be late September.”
On July 9, Cohen and his attorney, Jeffery Levine, visited a lower Manhattan courthouse to ask that Cohen’s status be changed from furlough to home confinement, according to the lawsuit.
However, US probation officers, working under the directions of the Bureau of Prison, gave Cohen a copy of a Federal Location Monitoring Agreement form which forbade Cohen from using any media as a condition of his release. The form specifically included “books” as part of the forbidden media.
When Cohen raised objections, the probation officers stated that they would inquire with the Bureau of Prisons on the removal of this condition. However, when they returned, Cohen had already been taken into custody again by US Marshals.
At that time a spokesperson for the Bureau of Prisons said that Cohen was arrested again because he “declined to agree to the terms required for the program and home confinement placement.”
However, Cohen’s attorneys have stated that Cohen was ready to sign the form to avoid arrest.
The lawsuit states that Cohen intends to publish his tell-all book before the November election.
“In the run-up to the 2020 presidential election, he intends to tell the American people about Mr. Trump’s personality and proclivities, his private and professional affairs, and his personal and business ethics.”
According to additional documents filed by Cohen’s attorneys in support of his lawsuit, the book will provide “graphic and unflattering details about the President’s behavior behind closed doors” such as his “pointedly anti-Semitic remarks and virulently racist remarks against such Black leaders as President Barack Obama and Nelson Mandela, neither of whom he viewed as real leaders or as worthy of respect by virtue of their race.”
The lawsuit also mentions the suits filed by the Trump administration to block the publication of Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton’s tell-all book and Mary Trump’s tell-all book.
It says that the suits reflect the Trump administration’s efforts to “censor speech that reflects negatively on Trump himself or his administration.”
The administration’s lawsuits were unsuccessful in their aim as books by both Bolton and Mary Trump were recently published.
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