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ACLU fights for Michael Cohen release, says he’s targeted for book

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  • The ACLU and the New York-based law firm Perry Guha LLP are suing Attorney General William Barr and the Bureau of Prisons director on behalf of Michael Cohen.
  • They say that Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, is being unjustly held in prison because he’s writing a book about Trump.
  • Cohen was briefly released from prison due to COVID-19 concerns earlier this year, but was taken back into custody in July after refusing conditions of his house arrest, the Bureau of Prisons said.
  • Days before he was taken back into custody he was seen dining at a Manhattan restaurant and the ACLU said he had tweeted about his book.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The American Civil Liberties Union and a private law firm have filed a lawsuit against Attorney General William Barr and the Bureau of Prisons director on Monday on behalf of Michael Cohen, saying Donald Trump’s former lawyer is being unjustly held in prison because he’s writing a critical book about the president.

The lawsuit was filed late on Monday night by the ACLU and Perry Guha LLP, a New York-based law firm.

The lawyers said in a statement that keeping Cohen in prison violates the First Amendment, and are calling for him to be released and put on home confinement.

“The government cannot imprison Michael Cohen for writing a book about President Trump,” Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, said in the statement. “The gag order that the government sought to impose on Mr. Cohen was an unconstitutional prior restraint, and his continued imprisonment is part of a dangerous pattern of retaliation against Trump critics.”

The Bureau of Prisons told Insider it would not comment on pending legal matters. The Department of Justice didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Cohen, who started his three-year prison sentence in 2019 after pleading guilty to tax, bank, and campaign finance crimes, was briefly released from prison and put on home confinement in May, over COVID-19 concerns.

While in home confinement, federal officers asked Cohen to sign an agreement that prohibited him from speaking on social media or to the press, the ACLU said, adding that the agreement “unusual.”

The same month, the Trump Organization sent Cohen a cease-and-desist letter over his “tell-all” book about the president, according to ABC News and the Daily Beast. The Trump Organization said at the time that Cohen had signed a non-disclosure agreement that barred him from disclosing information about Trump, his family, or the company.

Cohen, according to the ACLU, said he never signed an NDA with the Trump Organization.

Cohen was sent back to prison on July 9 after refusing conditions of his house arrest, the Bureau of Prisons told Insider earlier this month.

Days earlier, Cohen had been seen dining at a Manhattan restaurant, apparently in violation of the terms of his early release. He had also tweeted about putting finishing touches on his book, the ACLU said.

“This case is about a brazen assault on the First Amendment and the rule of law. We trust that our Constitution will prevail and that free speech will continue to be protected, for our client and for all others by extension,” Danya Perry, founding partner of Perry Guha, said in ACLU’s statement. 

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