Michael Cohen heads to prison in Trump hush-money scheme
NEW YORK (AP) — Michael Cohen, the former lawyer, media attack dog and all-around fixer for President Donald Trump, is scheduled to begin serving a three-year prison sentence Monday for crimes including campaign finance violations related to hush-money payments made on Trump’s behalf.
Cohen faces a 2 p.m. deadline to report to the Federal Correctional Institution, Otisville, a federal prison in the countryside 70 miles (113 kilometers) northwest of New York City. A minimum-security prison camp there has become a haven for white-collar criminals.
Cohen, who has been disbarred, is trading plaid blazers for khaki prison garb after trying and failing in recent weeks to get his sentence delayed or reduced.
His legal team asked House Democrats last month to intercede after Cohen testified on Capitol Hill, but they were reticent to do so. Federal prosecutors in New York were also no help, Cohen’s lawyers said.
Cohen was originally scheduled to start his sentence in March, but a judge granted a two-month delay so he could recover from surgery and get his affairs in order.
Cohen, 53, is the only person charged with a crime in connection with the hush-money payments to women who allegedly had affairs with Trump.
Federal prosecutors have said Trump directed Cohen to arrange the payments to buy the silence of porn actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal in the run-up to the 2016 election. Trump denies that he had trysts with either woman.
Cohen also pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about a Trump Tower project in Moscow, as well as to charges of tax evasion and bank fraud.
Once he gets to prison, Cohen will undergo medical and mental health screenings and be assigned a job, such as mowing the grounds or cleaning up the visiting room. He’ll also get sets of clothing, bedding and towels.
At the prison camp, about 115 inmates sleep in bunks lined up in barrack-style halls, instead of individual or two-man cells like in higher-security facilities. Recreational amenities include tennis courts, horseshoes and bocce ball.
Forbes once ranked Otisville as one of “America’s 10 Cushiest Prisons,” but former employees and inmates say it’s hardly “Club Fed.” Inmates are still doing time and they’re still separated from their families and friends.
“There’s no free time to work on your book, or whatever,” said former employee Don Drewett. “You get your downtime when you’re supposed to be sleeping or when you can exercise, but that only happens at certain windows of the day. It’s not where in the middle of the day you can just opt to not go to work and go work out. That’s not the way that works.”
Cohen’s fellow inmates include “Jersey Shore” star Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino, who wraps up an eight-month tax fraud sentence in September, and Fyre Festival fraudster Billy McFarland, who’s serving a six-year sentence.
But Cohen should avoid acting like he’s still in the spotlight, said Jack Donson, a former Otisville case manager who advises white-collar criminals on what to expect in prison.
Some high-profile inmates have been known to hire other prisoners to do their laundry and heat up their meals, but that’s looked at by staff as a sign of laziness and entitlement.
So too are inmates who try to set themselves up with the cushiest accommodations by having a doctor write a note suggesting they sleep in a bottom bunk or wear soft shoes.
If there’s a legitimate medical need, it should come up at intake, Donson said.
“You assume the role of an inmate,” said Donson. “You’re cordial to everybody. You’re respectful to everybody. You do your time. You ask for nothing from staff. Nothing from inmates. You accept nothing from inmates. You’re nobody. Seriously.”
If Cohen can’t adjust, Donson said, “his time is going to be miserable.”
Follow Sisak at twitter.com/mikesisak and Mustian at twitter.com/jimmustian
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