Michael Cohen back in custody after refusing terms of home confinement

Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal attorney, has been taken back into federal custody after refusing the terms of his home confinement, the Bureau of Prisons said in a statement Thursday. Cohen had been furloughed in May over concerns about the coronavirus pandemic within the federal prison system.

A bureau spokesperson said that in order to be released to home confinement, Cohen had to agree to comply with the bureau’s policy, which requires both electric monitoring and obtaining pre-approval for media interviews.

Lanny Davis, Cohen’s friend and former attorney, said in a conference call with reporters Thursday that he’d spoken with Cohen before he met with probation officers. Cohen said he was going to sign papers and receive an ankle bracelet in what he described as a routine meeting.

After Cohen was taken back into custody, Davis spoke with Cohen’s current attorney, Jeffrey Levine, who said Cohen only balked at signing conditions that prohibited speaking to the media, engaging in social media and writing a book. Cohen said he felt his rights were being violated and questioned why he couldn’t do those things in home confinement if he could do them in prison, Davis said.

The probation officials said we will see if we can work this out, and said they would return but after nearly an hour, U.S. Marshals entered the room and put Cohen in shackles, saying they had orders from the Bureau of Prisons to take him into custody, Davis said.

Cohen then said “I’ll sign whatever you want me to sign,” according to Davis, but the U.S. Marshals said it was out of their hands and transported Cohen back to the federal facility in Brooklyn.

Michael Cohen
Michael Cohen in New York City on May 21, 2020.

JOHANNES EISELE/Getty


Davis said he does not believe that Cohen was placed back in custody because of his dining out in New York because Cohen had recently told him he was never reprimanded or warned by BOP officials. Cohen did tell him that he was restricted to several blocks from his house and the restaurants were nearby, so he did not believe dining out violated his conditions.

Cohen was spotted at a Manhattan restaurant multiple times in the last several weeks, a source told CBS News. He was seen on the evening of June 27 and again on July 1 at Avra Madison Estiatorio, a place Cohen had frequented before he originally went to prison, the source said.

“He was just walking around like everything was normal,” said the source, who asked not to be identified but had seen Cohen at the restaurant several times in the past.

Cohen was expected to serve the remainder of his sentence in home confinement. He had been incarcerated at Otisville Federal Correctional Institution, which is located about 70 miles outside of New York City.

In March, Cohen had sought to have his sentence reduced or to serve the balance of his sentence in home confinement because of the burgeoning threat posed by COVID-19. The court denied his application, claiming the request was “just another effort to inject himself into the news cycle” — but since then, the Bureau of Prisons has taken more aggressive action to stop the spread of the coronavirus within prisons.

Other prominent political figures including former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and attorney Michael Avenatti have also been released to home confinement due to fears of the coronavirus. 

In December 2018, Cohen was sentenced to three years for financial and campaign finance crimes and lying to Congress about his involvement in an effort to build a “Trump Tower” in Moscow during the 2016 campaign. The campaign finance violations involved his arrangement of hush-money payments to two women during the 2016 campaign regarding their alleged affairs with Mr. Trump.

Paula Reid, Pat Milton, Clare Hymes and Ed O’Keefe contributed reporting.