Judge rejects ex-Trump lawyer Cohen’s bid for freedom, even with COVID-19 risk

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A federal judge on Tuesday denied Michael Cohen’s request to be released early from prison, saying U.S. President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer should accept the consequences of his crimes rather than invoke the coronavirus pandemic to justify his freedom.

U.S. District Judge William Pauley in Manhattan said the government acted within its discretion in deciding that Cohen’s false statements and refusal to accept responsibility justified that he serve his three-year sentence.

Cohen, who pleaded guilty in August 2018 to violating campaign finance laws and other crimes, had sought to reduce his sentence to a year and a day, or be released into home confinement.

“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 had argued that the government failed to credit his cooperation with former Special Counsel Robert Mueller and other investigators on matters related to Trump.

He also said the risk he might contract COVID-19 in prison justified his release, but Pauley dismissed that argument.

“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,” he wrote.

Roger Adler, a lawyer for Cohen, said he was disappointed.

“I fear the judiciary either doesn’t know/doesn’t care about the exposure to a fatal viral infection by those who live in close quarters, and who aren’t quickly tested for the virus,” Adler said in an email.

Cohen is housed at a minimum-security camp in Otisville, New York, and eligible for release in November 2021.

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 Dan Grebler)