• Thu. Jul 25th, 2024

Michael Cohen asks Supreme Court to reopen lawsuit against Trump, Bill Barr for retaliatory jailing

Michael Cohen asks Supreme Court to reopen lawsuit against Trump, Bill Barr for retaliatory jailing

Michael Cohen asked the Supreme Court on Wednesday to reopen his lawsuit against Donald Trump and his Justice Department for being jailed in 2020 when he refused not to criticize the then-president.

In his request, the former Trump fixer asked the justices to review the case tossed in January and decide “whether there is any consequence for executives who incarcerate their critics.”

Cohen, 57, was about halfway through a three-year sentence for doling out hush money on Trump’s behalf and other crimes when the Bureau of Prisons released him to home confinement in May 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He soon wound up back in a cell at upstate Otisville for 16 days after declining to immediately agree not to mouth off about Trump during his sentence while being outfitted for an ankle monitor.

In July 2020, Manhattan federal court Judge Alvin Hellerstein ordered Cohen’s release and remarked that he’d apparently been retaliated against in a way he’d never seen on the bench.

“[He] was presented with a document that had no federal serial number attached to it — that all documents like it have — that had a paragraph with misspellings, unusual syntax, and punctuation, that said he would not speak, write and would cause his family to not speak or write about anything related to the reasons he was in prison,” Cohen’s lawyer, Jon Dougherty, told the Daily News Wednesday.

This undated photo provided by the Bureau of Prisons shows the Federal Correctional Institution, Otisville in Mount Hope, N.Y. President Donald Trump's former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, is due to report to the facility on Monday, May 6, 2019, to begin serving a three year sentence for tax evasion, lying to Congress and campaign finance crimes. (Bureau of Prisons via AP)
Otisville (Bureau of Prisons via AP)

When Cohen asked if he had to agree to it, U.S. marshals said they would check with their superiors, court documents detail. They returned 90 minutes later with an order sending him back to prison. It’s not clear who the marshals spoke with in that time.

Cohen filed claims against Trump, Barr, and others in December 2021, alleging they conspired to imprison him. He sued them in their personal capacities, which the Supreme Court has allowed in “unusual” circumstances.

Manhattan federal court Judge Lewis Liman dismissed the suit in November 2022, writing that Cohen’s release was the appropriate remedy and that he was bound by precedent but believed his jailing demonstrated “profound violence” to his constitutional rights. Liman described it as “nothing short of the use of executive power to lock up the president’s political enemies for speaking critically of him” and said there was nothing to deter it from happening again.

In January, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Liman’s ruling, which Cohen wants the Supreme Court to reconsider. He needs four justices to agree to its review.

“What could be more ‘unusual’ than a lawsuit … that claims the President of the United States’ most public and vociferous critic was incarcerated in retaliation for refusing to be silent?” Dougherty said.

“We are supposed to live in a country where everyone can say what they want about the government without any fear that those words could lead them to a prison cell … As it stands right now, that could happen to you, and if it does happen, there is no penalty for the people who put you there.”

Trump attorney Alina Habba cited presidential immunity and called Cohen’s case “meritless.” She referenced a 2022 Supreme Court decision in which the conservative majority blocked a similar suit seeking money from a federal official from proceeding in court and not through Congress.
“If this case proceeds forward, I look forward to a decisive victory,” Habba said.

Cohen recently testified at Trump’s Manhattan trial, resulting in his historic conviction for falsifying business records. He told The News he was still reeling from the impacts of his time in a cell without ventilation or a working toilet and sink.

“Solitary confinement is hell,” Cohen said. “The PTSD is horrific, and it leaves you with what’s referred to as triggering events.”

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