For many months I have been sharing my thoughts on the Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen cases.

Now that Michael Cohen has been sentenced to federal prison a number of media outlets are reaching out to me get my advice and thoughts on Cohen’s 36 month prison term.

Where will Cohen serve time? Most likely Otisville Federal Prison Camp…

Otisville Federal Prison Camp is a popular camp in New York. Over the years I have had more than 15 clients serve time at Otisville. Over the last few days I have been communicating with Leslie Albrecht of Marketwatch. On a flight home from Nashville yesterday I took the time to answer Leslie’s questions for an article she is writing on Cohen and Otisville Federal Prison Camp. Some of the questions she asked me include:

Otisville Federal Prison Camp

Otisville Federal Prison Camp

If you have thoughts on the Michael Cohen sentencing, feel free to share. Any clues on where he’ll serve? My answer followed:

Hi Leslie,

Thank you for writing me. Some of the thoughts I shared with Reuters is in this article proves true. In another words, I suggested that because of his limited cooperation he would get a below guideline sentence, which he did.
To the actual sentencing, it’s clear his limited cooperation got him a lower than guideline sentence. As you may know, he was in front of a very tough sentencing judge, especially on white collar defendants.
I never agreed that his lawyers should ask for probation, especially when the government was asking for substantial prison time. Asking for probation doesn’t truly show acceptance of responsibility;  it could be offputting to this judge.
To the future, it would not surprise me if he tries to cooperate more fully now that he has been sentenced. If you cooperate more openly and fully, he could try to position himself for a rule 35. A rule 35 means the defendant has offered cooperation after sentencing. If the cooperation proves useful, he could go back in front of a judge for  a shorter sentence. I’ve had a number of clients benefit for my rule 35.
He may have held out believe he would get probation. That is part of the reason he may not of cooperated fully. But now that he sees a three year prison sentence, he may be more inspired to share more that he knows. Time will tell.
To the federal prison, I suspect his lawyers asked for Otisville federal prison camp. Otisville has a large Jewish population. It is also the closest federal prison camp to his home.
If you would like me to offer more insights on what his life will be like on the inside as a white-collar prisoner, I am happy to. This experience can be incredibly productive for him, or it could send him further into a deep hole. The choice is his.
Lastly, if his presentence report showed a problem with drug or alcohol use, he could be eligible for the early release program. The program could take up to 15 months off of his sentence. That means if you qualified on a 36 month sentence he would only serve 14 to 15 months. Again, it would be stated in the presentence report. Many defendants pursue this program both to get help and to get out of Federal prison early. If he prepared properly, and presuming there is a history of drinking or substance-abuse, he most likely pursue this program.
Forgive any typos. I’m in Nashville today with clients and talking into my iPhone.
Best,

Justin

Sent from my iPhone
Leslie had more questions, that included:

1: What are some pros to Otisville Federal Prison Camp?

One pro to Otisville is the warden’s very liberal approach to giving furloughs. A furlough is when a prisoner can leave the prison and go home for a certain amount of time, in some cases, days. I do not know of menorah’s in the mess hall, but I do know they allow ample time for the Jewish Population to attend services. I have had many clients to go Otisville, and I have clients there now that I can email. If you have specific questions that I do not know, I can have the answer in hours. All I have to do is send an email to a client at Otisville!

2: Are they excited to have Michael Cohen among their ranks at Otisville Federal Prison Camp?

(From a client). “I am not excited. I could care less. I would treat him the same as everybody else. Some are excited because I know a lot of guys would want to talk to him about Trump, what Trump is like, and all of that. Some guys think he is nuts for hiring Lanny Davis (Clinton’s lawyer) as his lawyer. By doing that and cooperating against Trump he ensured he would go to prison and ensured he would not get a pardon. Some guys think Cohen is stupid (especially if you are a Trump supporter which surprisingly there are many of here) and did not play his cards right. Manfort may be in the hole 23 hours a day but at least he is a position for a pardon, right? So I guess some will ignore him, others will want to talk to him and learn from him and some will call him weak, stupid and dumb (kind of like Trump says).

3: Will he be shunned or embraced in federal prison?

(From Justin): As I shared with you in the blog I wrote about celebrities in federal prison, some prison staff and federal prisoners will embrace him. Celebrity clients of mine have been given special treatment from staff—more phone minutes, desirable bunk and job. If a staff member is enamored with his celebrity Cohen will get the better job, bunk, and other special perks (I had one celebrity who was allowed to make private phone calls in his counselor’s office). You are only allowed 300 phone minutes a month. Those calls are recorded. He was able to call as much as he wanted with no phone restriction and no recorded calls. Cohen could get similar treatment—the question is whether he pursues it or accepts it. If he does it would be off-putting to other prisoners and it could lead to problems.
While some prisoners and staff will kiss up to him in predictable sycophantic fashion, others will shun him. They will test him in the chow hall by telling him to get out of his seat. They will tell him to do a better job of sweeping the floor. They will tell him he has to pay “rent” to use the laundry machine. Of course, a prisoner does not pay to use the laundry machine, but some prisoners claim it as their own. Likewise, they may charge “rent” to use the microwave. You get the idea…Some prisoners could care less if they go to the hole or segregation. For that reason, they may seek to grow their name by texting the celebrity prisoner.
You can absolutely expect him to be shunned and embraced.

4: What’s their No. 1 piece of advice to a new inmate about Otisville Federal Prison Camp?

From a client at Otisville Federal Prison Camp: “Like you taught me lay low, mind your business and keep to yourself. Avoid staff at all costs and he can NEVER complain about the length of his sentence. Last things guy want to hear is some lawyer complaining about doing 3 years when they are doing 10 for their mandatory minimum drug crime.

5: What are the best things about Otisville Prison Camp and the worst things about Otisville Prison?

My client’s answer is below:

“I got your other email yesterday also and was going to answer today – and then the whole Cohen thing started. I have been telling the guys here that the biggest problem with Cohen (we also have Dean Skelos the NYS Senate majority leader and Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino from Jersey Shore TV show coming in January) and the other famous guys is the spotlight it will put on Otisville Federal Prison Camp.

The reality is that this is the best camp in the federal system. it is basically an old age home for felons. it is set in the woods and we have no fence or wire or anything. The staff is good and the food is plentiful. Over half the camp is Jewish. I eat on the kosher line and we have good meals every day. For Shabbat our food is all “homemade” and amazing. I think I eat better here than I do at home.

So to answer your question the best things about Otisville are the food and the relative “freedom” that we have. The worst thing about Otisville federal prison camp is the lack of programming (and the damn cold weather – just started snowing). There are not a lot of educational opportunities and most of the jobs only last a few minutes a day. So we are all fighting boredom. there is not a real “purpose” to being here. It is strictly punitive. There are no redemptive features where I can come out of here saying I learned something or got a license or education of some degree. I put in a request to the education department my first day here to be able to take my MBA program. that was 48 days ago and I have not received a response.

As for the inmates all we have paid attention to the past year, and certainly the 2 months I have been here, is the First Step act. It is all that get talked about every day. If it passes then everyone will love Trump. No one gives a damn about Russia. The reality is that Cohen is technically a “rat” – but this is one of the few places in the federal system where he will not be in danger because of that. A ton of guys here have cooperated one way or another – so this is probably the best place for him.

If you have more questions about life in prison, including Otisville Federal Prison Camp, feel free to schedule a call here.

Best,

Justin Paperny

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