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VOL. 43 | NO. 18 | Friday, May 3, 2019

Ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen arrives at prison

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NEW YORK (AP) — Michael Cohen took a last swipe at President Donald Trump as he reported to a federal prison Monday to begin a three-year prison sentence for crimes including tax evasion and campaign finance violations related to hush-money payments made to protect his former boss.

"I hope that when I return to my family that the country will be in a place without xenophobia, injustice and lies at the helm of our country," Cohen said. "There still remains much to be told and I look forward to the day where I can share the truth."

Cohen, 52, arrived around 11:45 a.m. at the Otisville federal prison, which is about 70 miles (113 kilometers) northwest of New York City and has a prison camp that's become a haven for white collar criminals .

Video from a television news helicopter showed Cohen stepping out of the SUV, pulling off his blue blazer and leaving it inside the vehicle before walking to a prison building. He was met by two men who appeared to be prison officials.

A little less than two hours earlier, as he left his New York City home, Cohen had stopped to briefly read from what appeared to be a prepared statement to a crush of media outside his apartment. He didn't mention Trump by name, but left little doubt about who he was referring to as being "at the helm" of the U.S.

Cohen didn't answer shouted questions, stumbling his way to a waiting Cadillac Escalade as journalists jostled around scaffolding and scuffled with his driver.

Prison officials took extra measures to deal with the intense media interest in Cohen's arrival. They put concrete barriers up along the two-lane road leading to the facility and deployed cones and caution tape to keep about two dozen reporters and photographers from getting too close.

Cohen's lawyer and spokesman, Lanny Davis, said Cohen would continue to be available to cooperate with law enforcement, though it's unclear how much his cooperation is wanted.

Since mid-March, federal prosecutors in New York have rebuffed Cohen's repeated offers to provide more information about alleged wrongdoing by Trump and other people in his orbit, Davis said.

"Michael may be sentenced within the walls of a federal correctional institution. But the truth has no walls," Davis said in a statement.

His legal team asked House Democrats last month to intercede after Cohen testified on Capitol Hill, but they were reticent to do so.

Cohen 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 having 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.

He 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 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.

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."

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Associated Press writers Deepti Hajela in Otisville, New York and Rebecca Gibian in New York contributed to this report.

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Follow Sisak at twitter.com/mikesisak and Mustian at twitter.com/jimmustian

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Send news tips, documents and recordings to AP securely and confidentially: https://www.ap.org/tips/

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