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Judge Orders Former Trump Lawyer Michael Cohen Released From Prison

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A federal judge found that Michael Cohen's return to prison earlier this month was a violation of his first amendment rights. Cohen, shown here in May, had previously been granted home due to coronavirus concerns.
John Minchillo, AP

A federal judge found that Michael Cohen's return to prison earlier this month was a violation of his first amendment rights. Cohen, shown here in May, had previously been granted home due to coronavirus concerns.

Updated at 3:50 p.m. ET

A federal judge has ordered that President Trump's former personal attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, be released from prison to home confinement. He found that his recent return to prison was retaliation for plans to publish a tell-all book.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein sided with a lawsuit from Cohen's lawyers saying that conditions of Cohen's home confinement — that he not speak to the media or publish a book — violated his first amendment rights. Hellerstein order Cohen be released by 2 p.m. Friday.

The judge also gave both parties one week to agree to terms of his home confinement.

According to his lawyers, Cohen has been held in solitary confinement since he returned to federal prison earlier this month.Cohen was initially released to home confinement in May over concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic. His attorneys said hypertension and respiratory issues put him at greater risk.

He is writing a book about his time working with Trump. During his home confinement, Cohen refused to agree to the terms. He was taken back to prison earlier this month, and federal authorities at the time said he refused the conditions of his release.

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Lawyers for Cohen, including the American Civil Liberties Union, filed a lawsuit saying his reimprisonment was in fact retaliation for plans to publish a book that they say "provides graphic details about the President's behavior behind closed doors." They say it was also a violation of his first amendment rights.

Cohen's attorneys noted that he had made no secret of his intentions to release the book, including plans to seek a publication date weeks before the 2020 election.

The ACLU said in a statement that the Trump administration has a history of attempting to block books from his critics, including his former National Security Adviser John Bolton.

Cohen's return to prison was "part of a dangerous pattern of retaliation against Trump critics," said Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU's Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project.

Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison in 2018 after he pleaded guilty to multiple crimes, including lying to Congress and campaign finance violations over hush money payments made to a woman who alleged to have had sexual relations with Trump. The president has denied those affairs.

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