Judge rejects Michael Cohen's plea for early prison release amid coronavirus

Judge rejects Michael Cohen's plea for early prison release amid coronavirus
© Stefani Reynolds

A federal judge on Tuesday rejected a plea from Michael CohenMichael Dean CohenTrump's self-interest is at odds with safe coronavirus policy Judge rejects Michael Cohen's plea for early prison release amid coronavirus Michael Cohen cites 'absence of presidential leadership' over coronavirus in effort to move to home confinement MORE for a sentence reduction as the coronavirus spreads across New York, where President TrumpDonald John TrumpSanders says he wouldn't 'drop dead' if Trump decided on universal healthcare Overnight Health Care: Trump officials lay groundwork for May reopening | Democrats ramp up talks with Mnuchin on next relief deal | Fauci says death toll could be around 60,000 Hillicon Valley: State officials push for more election funds | Coronavirus surveillance concerns ramp up pressure for privacy bill | Senators warned not to use Zoom | Agencies ask FCC to revoke China Telecom's license MORE’s former lawyer is serving a three-year prison term.

In a two-page order, U.S. District Court Judge William Pauley appeared unmoved by Cohen’s latest sentence-reduction request and largely deferred to federal prosecutors who said the former fixer was “manifestly ineligible” for compassionate release.

“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,” Pauley wrote.


Cohen has been incarcerated since last May at a minimum-security federal prison in Otisville, N.Y., some 75 miles northwest of New York City, following convictions for financial crimes, campaign finance violations and lying to Congress.

Earlier this month, the former Trump lawyer asked the judge to shorten his sentence from three years to one or, alternatively, to allow him to serve out the remainder at home. It was the second such request Cohen has made in recent months, though his latest plea cited concerns that federal prisons would be unable to protect inmates from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

To date, the pandemic has infected some 52,000 and killed 675 in the U.S., according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. New York state accounts for nearly 26,000 confirmed cases.

Some legal groups have raised concerns about the potential risk to inmates if the virus were to spread inside correctional facilities, which could disproportionately harm older inmates and those with underlying health conditions.

In response to Cohen’s plea, federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York told the judge that the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) were well prepared to handle an outbreak and that Cohen's claims were baseless.

“Cohen offers nothing beyond that bare assertion in support of his claim, which is belied by publicly available information about the [BOP’s] significant efforts to prepare to respond, should there in fact be any cases of COVID-19 at the facility where Cohen is housed,” prosecutors wrote in a memo opposing his early release.

Cohen’s projected release date is Nov. 22, 2021.