A Justice Department official confirmed the development Friday. The lawyer’s assertion was first reported by CNN.
A Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman said in a statement, “I am unable to address any specific offenders suitability for home confinement.” A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan, which prosecuted Cohen, declined to comment.
Cohen once affectionately considered himself Trump’s fixer, though as he became ensnared in multiple federal investigations, he turned on his former client, connecting Trump in federal court to criminal misdeeds and alleging scandalous conduct in testimony before Congress. He had reported to prison on May 6 to begin serving a three-year sentence.
At Attorney General William P. Barr’s direction, the Bureau of Prisons has been working in recent weeks to move more inmates to home confinement in a bid to stem the spread of coronavirus at the institutions it manages. According to information from the bureau’s website, nearly 1,200 inmates have been transferred to their homes. Some criminal justice advocates have said more should still be done.
Cohen is among a number of high-profile inmates who have pushed to get out of jail during the pandemic — some successfully. The Justice Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to detail internal discussions, said Barr had told Bureau of Prisons’ leadership to “not give special treatment to any inmate,” though the precise calculations in Cohen’s case were unclear.
Last month, Cohen’s attorney wrote to a judge that the Bureau of Prisons was “demonstrably incapable of safeguarding and treating B.O.P. inmates” during the coronavirus pandemic and asked that Cohen be moved to home confinement. The facility has had 14 inmates and seven staffers test positive for the novel coronavirus, according to the latest Bureau of Prisons figures.
Prosecutors objected to the request, asserting that Cohen was “53 years old and in good health,” and noting that he had at that point “not moved for compassionate release, likely because he is manifestly ineligible for it.” U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III sided with the government.
“That Cohen would seek to single himself out for release to home confinement appears to be just another effort to inject himself into the news cycle,” Pauley wrote. “As the Government points out, he is ‘manifestly ineligible’ for compassionate release and has not exhausted his administrative remedies.”
Adler, Cohen’s attorney, said that in asking the prison warden for release — an administrative remedy — Cohen had submitted evidence to back up his claims.
“He has a number of lung problems that were documented; medical records were provided,” Adler said. He declined to say what Cohen’s lung problems were.
Adler said it was his understanding that Cohen was among a number of inmates that will be released because of the pandemic.
Barr had directed prison officials to look at inmates’ vulnerability to covid-19, their conduct in prison and whether they would pose a danger to the community in deciding whether they should be let go. Such factors generally favor older, white-collar criminals.
A federal judge in California recently said he would allow the release of lawyer Michael Avenatti, the attorney who rose to prominence as the legal counsel for adult-film actress Stormy Daniels during her lawsuit against Trump over a hush-money deal, but with bond and other stringent conditions. Avenatti was convicted in an extortion case this year in New York and has been awaiting trial in California on allegations that he stole millions of dollars from his clients.
The Bureau of Prisons said it would similarly approve furlough from prison and home confinement for former New York State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, who had been serving a four-year and three-month prison term after he was convicted in a corruption case. Prosecutors wrote in a court filing that Skelos had tested positive for coronavirus but had been “symptom-free since approximately April 8,” and he would be released pending approval by medical staff and sign-off by the U.S. Probation Office on the place he wants to live.
Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman who was convicted in 2018 of bank and tax fraud, asked Monday to be released from prison to home confinement to serve the remainder of his 7½-year sentence, saying his age and health put him at higher risk of death from coronavirus. The issue now could come up in the case of Roger Stone, Trump’s longtime confidante who was convicted last year of tampering with a witness and lying to Congress about his efforts to learn of hacked Democratic emails during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
A federal judge in D.C. on Thursday rejected Stone’s bid for a new trial and said he should report to prison to begin serving his 40-month sentence as soon as federal officials instruct him to do so, after a two-week grace period lapses. Stone’s likely appeals, though, could delay that.
Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 in two separate criminal cases. In the first, he admitted to campaign finance violations stemming from payments made before the 2016 election to Daniels and another woman who alleged having affairs with Trump years earlier. Cohen said he arranged the payments at Trump’s direction to keep the women quiet. Trump has denied the women’s allegations.
In the second, Cohen admitted he lied to Congress about a Moscow real estate project Trump and his company pursued while Trump was trying to secure the Republican nomination to become president. That case was a part of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia during the 2016 campaign, and Cohen later said in court that he lied to protect Trump.
As of Thursday — the latest figures available — 473 federal inmates had tested positive for coronavirus, along with 279 Bureau of Prisons staff. The Bureau of Prisons said 18 inmates had died.
The Bureau of Prisons did not move at the start of the outbreak to release those in custody as a part of its response to the global pandemic, though Barr has stepped up that effort in the past month. In late March, he directed prison officials to expand their use of home confinement, but detailed a number of factors that might limit the pool that would be eligible.
Then, in early April, Barr expanded the directive — declaring an emergency under the recently passed coronavirus legislation that allowed the bureau to significantly lengthen the time inmates could serve on home confinement, and directing prison officials to consider a wider group for possible release.
As of Friday, Cohen remained in federal custody at FCI Otisville in New York. His attorney said, like other inmates being released, Cohen would have to be quarantined for two weeks before being sent home.