- Michael Cohen is suing Donald Trump, Bill Barr, and others over his return to prison in 2020.
- Cohen claimed he was retaliated against because of his public comments criticizing Trump.
- In July, he filed a federal tort claim against the US government seeking $20 million in damages.
Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, is suing him and other members of the Trump administration, alleging they violated his right to free speech and had him placed in solitary confinement for two weeks after he threatened to publish damning information about the former president.
Last year, Cohen was held in federal prison, serving out a three-year sentence for financial crimes and lying to Congress about Trump’s business dealings in Russia.
In April 2020, he was released to home confinement after authorities determined that he stood a high risk of suffering serious consequences were he infected by the coronavirus.
For the next three months, Cohen remained in his Manhattan apartment, where he started posting on Twitter, using the hashtag #WillSpeakSoon to promote an upcoming tell-all book about his former boss.
—Michael Cohen (@MichaelCohen212) June 26, 2020
Cohen then claimed federal authorities decided he would have to agree to a new condition — silence — if he were to remain at his home, according to the lawsuit filed Thursday with the US District Court for the Southern District of New York.
As of July 2020, the new policy stated Cohen could have “no engagement of any kind” with the media and “no posting on social media,” issued by Cohen’s probation officer, one of the subjects of his Thursday lawsuit.
When Cohen asked for clarification “and possible revision” at the meeting where the new terms of his home confinement were presented, he waited for 90 minutes while authorities “conferred,” his complaint states.
Authorities concluded on sending him back to prison, where Cohen says he was held in solitary confinement for 16 days.
A judge later that month ordered him released, instructing the government to refrain from “any continuing or future retaliation against Cohen for exercising his First Amendment rights.”
Cohen declined to comment for this article, referring Insider’s queries to his legal team.
But his lawyers say their client’s First Amendment right to free speech was violated, and that they’re seeking to challenge a dangerous precedent.
“Unless the government and others are held accountable for their retaliation and unconstitutional remand back to prison of Michael Cohen, illegal actions akin to what happened here can continue to persist as a weapon,” attorney Jeffrey K. Levine told Insider.
Levine argued that the precedent, if left to stand, could lead to others being punished for their speech.
“This is not hyperbole, it’s real, it’s frightening, and it irrefutably just happened,” he said.
In addition to the former president and Cohen’s probation officer, the lawsuit also names former Attorney General William Barr as a defendant, as well as Michael Carvajal, the current director of the federal Bureau of Prisons, whom Barr appointed.
The lawsuit comes six months after Cohen filed a federal tort claim against the US government seeking $20 million in damages. Levine told Insider the government did not respond to that claim, prompting the lawsuit.
The Department of Justice did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
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