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NYC judge sends Michael Cohen home, agrees with 'retaliation' claims

Michael Cohen, former personal attorney to President Donald Trump, is tearful while testifying before the House oversight committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on February 27, 2019. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
Michael Cohen, former personal attorney to President Donald Trump, is tearful while testifying before the House oversight committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on February 27, 2019. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

July 23 (UPI) -- A federal judge ordered Thursday that Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former personal attorney, be released to home confinement -- agreeing with arguments that his return to prison amounted to government retaliation.

Cohen was taken back into custody this month during a hearing that arranged the terms of his house arrest. He was furloughed from prison in May due to underlying health conditions that put him at greater risk should he contract COVID-19.

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The American Civil Liberties Union and a New York law firm filed suit this week calling for Cohen's release, arguing that his rearrest amounted to retaliation for his plans to publish a book about the president.

Manhattan District Judge Alvin Hellerstein said Thursday he was troubled by a clause in the agreement that asked Cohen to "avoid glamorizing or bringing publicity to your status as a sentenced inmate serving a custodial term in the community."

RELATED ACLU, law firm sue for Michael Cohen's release

"I've never seen such a clause in 21 years of being a judge and sentencing people," Hellerstein said. "How can I take any other inference but that it was retaliatory?"

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Federal prosecutors argued that Cohen was rearrested because he became "combative" after refusing to sign the agreement, and they said prison officials weren't aware of his plans to write a book.

Cohen, 53, is serving a three-year sentence after pleading guilty to coordinating hush-money payments to two women, including adult film performer Stormy Daniels, who said they had extramarital affairs with Trump.

RELATED Michael Cohen taken back into federal custody

Cohen's complaint named Attorney General William Barr, Bureau of Prisons chief Michael Carvajal and James Petrucci, the warden at Cohen's prison in Otisville, N.Y.

RELATED Michael Cohen leaves N.Y. prison for home due to COVID-19 risk

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