Liberate All Trump’s Criminals to Sustain the Lockdown

According to multiple reports yesterday, Michael Cohen will soon be released to serve out the remainder of his prison sentence in home confinement.

The federal Bureau of Prisons has notified Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, that he will be released early from prison due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to people familiar with the matter and his lawyer.

Cohen is serving a three-year sentence at the federal prison camp in Otisville, NY, where 14 inmates and seven staff members at the complex have tested positive for the virus.

Cohen was scheduled for release in November 2021, but he will be allowed to serve the remainder of his sentence from home confinement, the people said. He will have to undergo a 14-day quarantine at the prison camp before he is released.

Cohen was notified on Thursday of his pending release, and his lawyer, Roger Adler, confirmed it to CNN.

As Josh Gerstein has described, sometimes these promises don’t work out.

The spouse of an inmate at one of the hardest-hit federal prisons, in Elkton, Ohio, described a puzzling transfer of prisoners into pre-release quarantine and then out again.

Tammy Hartman said her husband Pete, who’s due out of prison in August of next year, was one of 56 inmates whose names were called on Saturday to report for quarantine so they could be sent on home confinement.

“They were all told: you’re going home,” she said. But on Wednesday, 54 of the men were sent back to their cells. “They told them, sorry, you’re not going anywhere, because they’d approved only two of them to leave.”

“I actually thought he was coming home,” Hartman said of her 59-year-old husband who — like other prisoners mentioned in this story — is serving time on drug charges. “I canceled all his subscriptions to magazines because I thought he’d be home in 14 days… I’m trying to hold it together.”

Which is, I guess, why Cohen’s lawyers promptly made this public — to make it harder for BOP to renege.

Otisville prison is one of the federal prisons with a growing cluster — currently, officially, with 14 prisoners and 7 guards testing positive. So it is an appropriate places for BOP to attempt to move older, non-violent prisoners. That said, Cohen is not actually that old (just 53) and as far as is public, his health is fine.

A far better case might be made that Paul Manafort should be sent to home confinement. He’s 71 and wasn’t all that healthy when he first went to jail almost two years ago, and he has continued to have health problems since then. His attorney, Kevin Downing, cited those health problems in a letter to BOP asking for his release. Curiously, Downing appears to be thinking exclusively in terms of internal appeals, rather than appealing to a judge, which suggests he thinks his client stands a better chance if someone working for Bill Barr makes the decision (which certainly worked to keep him out of Rikers when he was arraigned in New York). Perhaps that’s because the prison he’s in, Loretto, has had no reported cases yet. Manafort has been quarantining since the end of March, so can be sent home if there are cases there.

Paul Manafort is a shithole who sold out the candidate he worked for and his own country. He got fabulously wealthy fronting for dictators and other sleazebags, and stiffed the American taxpayers on the blood money he got in exchange.

But BOP should seriously consider moving him to home confinement for as long as the COVID outbreak lasts. Manafort was not nor should he have been sentenced to a death for his crimes. And if you can’t support that move for his miserable humanity, then do it for others he might infect, like the far poorer guards who tend to him.

Cohen and Manafort are not the only Trump criminals who may dodge full prison terms because of this virus. As bmaz noted, yesterday Amy Berman Jackson rejected Roger Stone’s bid for a new trial. While BOP doesn’t assign spots to people all that quickly in any case, for new non-violent prisoners, BOP is not rushing people into incarceration. And Stone, at 67, is also old enough to be considered a higher risk.

So rather than starting rebellions against stay-at-home orders in Michigan, Minnesota, and Virginia, Trump should encourage Bill Barr to liberate his criminal co-conspirators, along with the similarly situated men of color incarcerated with them.

But the only reason to remove Paul Manafort from an environment where he’d be more likely to contract the virus is if there’s a shut-down. So if Trump wants his criminals liberated — or wants Stone to remain out of prison long enough for the post-election pardon — then he should be rooting for a continued shut-down.

12 replies
  1. Keith McClary says:

    My first thought was, do they take into account whether the inmate has a suitable place to go and isolate? Do those not so well off stay in prison?

    • bmaz says:

      Unfortunately, the answer is basically yes. Also unfortunately, that is not an invalid consideration.

    • emptywheel says:

      And also whether or not they have access to healthcare on the outside.

      The truly old prisoners, like Manafort, will qualify for Medicare. But that’s something he mentioned in his letter asking to be let go–where he will live, why it is safer, and how he’ll get healthcare.

  2. misteranderson says:

    I have no sympathy for Paul Manafort. He’ll violate home confinement & it’ll just be like old times for him.

      • Sonso says:

        I suppose he might be a flight risk (if there are any flights!). He doesn’t seem to be all that attached to his family; is he also inclined to continue to stay quiet? On the latter, were he to be hospitalized, would a scribe appear for him to leave some ‘Easter eggs’ behind, on his way out the door?

  3. PhoneInducedPinkEye says:

    Would ABJ be the judge to whom Downing would direct any requests for home confinement? Or would it be that grandstander from his… (Virginia?) trial?

    Are the trial judges perpetually responsible for hearing these types of requests even years later?

  4. madwand says:

    It’s too bad we can’t get everyone to shut down. Prisons like ships and nursing homes are incubators. Ohio did a test in one of it’s prisons continually testing a group of inmates and over time had 39% asymptomatic, which might be an indicator of just where asymptomatic infection is. I’ve seen estimates between 25 and 50% which is good for the individual but bad for the rest of us. Glad they are quarantining those they intend to release.

  5. e.a.f. says:

    There is no reason to keep them in jail when they can do a home jail routine. Its cheap and easy. they get to stay in their homes. what ever they did, they ought not to be sentenced to death for it and that goes for the tens of thousands of other prisoners. Those who are there on drug offences and all the little shit you go to jail for in the U.S.A ought to be released, but I expect it will be the well off and connected who get to go home.

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