Home » News » Michael Cohen can’t hold Trump liable for retaliatory imprisonment, appeals court says

By Larry Neumeister, Associated Press, published on January 3, 2024

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Michael Cohen leaves a lower Manhattan building after meeting with prosecutors on March 10, 2023, in New York. AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, file

NEW YORK (AP) — Michael Cohen can’t hold his former boss, ex-president Donald Trump, liable because he was jailed for what he claimed was retaliation for writing a tell-all memoir, an appeals court ruled Jan. 2.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan said in an order that it would not revive a lawsuit that a lower-court judge had tossed out because the law did not seem to provide a damages remedy for most claims that someone was jailed in retaliation for their criticisms of a president.

A three-judge panel concluded Cohen had already obtained relief by getting a judge to order his release from imprisonment to home confinement several weeks after he was abruptly put behind bars when the government claimed he had violated severe restrictions on his public communications. It said the law did not provide an outlet for more relief than that.

Cohen served over a year of a three-year sentence in federal prison after pleading guilty in 2018 to tax evasion, campaign finance charges and lying to Congress, saying Trump directed him to arrange the payment of hush money to a porn actress to fend off damage to his 2016 presidential bid.

Freed early to home confinement as authorities worked to contain the coronavirus outbreak in federal prisons, Cohen was returned to prison weeks later when authorities claimed he had failed to accept certain terms of his release.

At the time, Cohen said he had merely sought clarification of a condition forbidding him from speaking with the news media and publishing his book.

After serving 16 days in solitary confinement that Cohen said left him with shortness of breath, severe headaches and anxiety, he was eventually freed on the orders of a judge who said he’d been jailed in retaliation for his desire to publish a book critical of the president and to discuss it on social media.

Cohen sued Trump and then-Attorney General William P. Barr, along with various prison and probation officials.

In a statement, Cohen said Jan. 2 he would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The outcome is wrong if democracy is to prevail. A writ of habeas corpus cannot be the only consequence to stop a rogue president from weaponizing the Department of Justice from locking up his/her critics in prison because they refuse to waive their First Amendment right,” he said.

Trump’s lawyer, Alina Habba, said in a statement: “We are very pleased with today’s ruling. Mr. Cohen’s lawsuit was doomed from its inception. We will continue to fight against any frivolous suits aimed at our client.”

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