By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Michael Cohen, U.S. President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer, risks catching coronavirus while serving his three-year prison sentence, justifying his release into home confinement, Cohen’s attorney said on Tuesday.
In a letter to U.S. District Judge William Pauley in Manhattan, Cohen’s lawyer Roger Adler accused the Federal Bureau of Prisons of being “demonstrably incapable” of safeguarding inmates who live in close quarters and face an “enhanced risk” of catching coronavirus.
Adler urged Pauley “to consider my client’s exposure to the coronavirus,” and act “thoughtfully and decisively” given the “absence of Presidential leadership” in protecting federal prisoners from COVID-19.
A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman in Manhattan declined to comment.
Cohen, 53, has lived since last May at a minimum-security camp in Otisville, New York, which like all federal prisons has suspended visits to help protect inmates from coronavirus.
He pleaded guilty in August 2018 to campaign finance and other crimes, including by directing hush money before the 2016 election to two women who claimed to have had sexual encounters with Trump, which the president has denied.
Cohen asked Pauley last Dec. 11 to shorten his sentence to a year and a day or allow home confinement, citing his cooperation with former Special Counsel Robert Mueller and other investigators concerning Trump.
Mueller had examined Russian interference in the 2016 election.
In a Dec. 19 letter opposing Cohen’s release, Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said Cohen was not a “credible witness,” citing statements in which she said he minimized his acceptance of responsibility for conduct underlying his guilty plea.
The case is U.S. v. Cohen, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 18-cr-00602.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Richard Chang)