Michael Avenatti, Michael Cohen & Bernie Madoff Seek Prison Release Because of Coronavirus

"Get me out of here!" - Michael Avenatti

[Editor’s Note: Additional information regarding the release of prisoners in New York City has been added to this post]. 


It’s almost like the start to a really bad joke: “Michael Avenatti, Michael Cohen and Bernie Madoff walk into a bar…”

Only it’s “Michael Avenatti, Michael Cohen and Bernie Madoff are trying to get out from behind bars…because of the coronavirus crisis”.

All three guys have, in fact, asked to be released from their respective federal prisons because of what their lawyers argue are unsafe conditions due to the inevitable outbreak of coronavirus at each location.

Avenatti is currently being housed at the Manhattan Correctional Center (MCC) in New York City, Cohen is at the Otisville facility about 90 miles North of New York City, and Madoff is at the federal prison in Butner, NC.


Michael Avenatti

The 49-year-old Avenatti had requested that he be released and placed on home confinement because he had contracted pneumonia within the last six months – and because his cellmate had been removed from their cell after running a high fever and having a severe cough.

Michael Avenatti

But U.S. District Court Judge James Selna flatly turned down Avenatti’s request last Saturday.

“There is no showing that his cellmate was infected by the virus, and there have been no reported cases of Covid 19 at the New York MCC,” Judge Selna wrote in his denial of the request. “There is no basis to release Avenatti on medical grounds.”

Avenatti has been held at MCC since his bail was revoked back in January because he was found to have violated several of the terms. He was convicted in February on a series of charges related to his alleged attempt to extort $25 million from the Nike company – and is facing up to 47-years in prison for those convictions.

Manhattan Correctional Center

He is also scheduled to go trial in the Southern District of New York sometime later this year on charges that he defrauded his former client Stormy Daniels. The maximum sentence regarding those charges is 22-years.

After that, he’s still scheduled to be tried on a variety of charges in federal court in Los Angeles, CA. Those charges carry a maximum sentence of 335-years.

Maybe Coen needs to re-think his attitude and his strategy. given the years he’s facing in federal prison, coming down with a fatal case of COVID-19 doesn’t sound that bad after all.


Michael Cohen

Cohen, who is serving a three-year sentence for tax evasion, lying to Congress, bank fraud and campaign finance violations, also sought his release from the country club atmosphere of Otisville on the grounds that the Bureau of Prisons is “demonstrably incapable of safeguarding and treating B.O.P. inmates who are obliged to live in close quarters and are at an enhanced risk of catching the virus.” from the coronavirus.

Michael Cohen

And even though he’s 100% correct about that claim, his requested release was also flatly turned down by U.S. District Court Judge William H. Pauley III, who noted: “Cohen’s cursory submission fails to offer any factual support for his claim or any legal basis upon which his motion could be granted.”

“That Cohen would seek to single himself out for release to home confinement appears to be just another effort to inject himself into the news cycle,” Pauley wrote in his opinion that sided with prosecutors, who urged that Cohen not be released.

“Ten months into his prison term, it’s time that Cohen accepts the consequences of his criminal convictions for serious crimes that had far-reaching institutional harms,” Pauley added.

Meanwhile, Cohen is supporting an online petition to his old boss, President Donald J. Trump, seeking the transfer of all non-violent federal prisoners to home confinement.

President Donald J. Trump

The petition – which was posted on Cohen’s Twitter account last weekend – argues that the requested releases would “give the prison facilities additional (and much needed) medical triage and logistic space for those who will become infected”.

The petition also includes the following guilt-trip message to Trump: “Without your intervention, scores of non-violent offenders are at risk of death and these people were not given a death sentence.”

The 53-year-old Cohen is currently scheduled to be released on November 22, 2021.


Bernie Madoff

Just last month, Madoff had asked for a “compassionate release” from federal prison because of his terminal kidney disease.

Bernie Madoff

According to the petition that he filed at the time, Madoff has a life expectancy of less than 18-months.

Now his attorneys are calling for him – and all at-risk federal prisoners – to be released for their own safety because of the coronavirus crisis.

“The federal prison system has consistently shown an inability to respond to major crises”, one of Madoff’s attorneys, Brandon Sample, told the Associated Press. “My concerns are even more amplified for prisoners at federal medical centers and those who are aged.”

The 81-year old Madoff is serving a 150-year sentence for bilking thousands of investors in a $17.5 billion Ponzi scheme.

Following his arrest, the Madoff family’s assets were auctioned off, and the government appointed a trustee who worked to recoup the $17.5 billion in principal investments that Madoff’s firm made. The Madoff Recovery Initiative has so far paid out nearly $13 billion, and another fund has paid out more than $2 billion to tens of thousands of victims, according to the funds’ websites.

He was imprisoned in July 2009 after pleading guilty to 11 felony counts – including money laundering, perjury, and falsifying financial documents.

Back in June 2019, Madoff submitted a clemency petition to President Trump. According to the Department of Justice’s website, that petition is still listed as “pending”.


State Prisons & Local Jails Are Already Releasing Some Prisoners

Several states and municipalities have already begun to reduce their prisoner populations in anticipation of outbreaks of the coronavirus.

In Los Angeles, for example, the nation’s largest jail system has reduced its prisoner population by more than 600 since the end of February by releasing many inmates with fewer than 30 days left on their sentences.

Local jails and state prisons are currently reducing the number of prisoners

And in Cleveland, judges held a special session last weekend to settle numerous pending cases with guilty pleas without any jail sentences – and to release more than 200 low-level, non-violent inmates.

In Miami, the top state attorney has urged the release of all non-violent felons and those being held on misdemeanors. That proposal has not yet been approved.

Last week, New York City’s Board of Corrections called for the immediate release of all high-risk inmates after an investigator assigned to the jail system died over the weekend from COVID-19. The city’s jail system has about 8,000 inmates, most at the notorious Rikers Island facility.

On Tuesday, March 24th, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio announced that 300 low-level inmates would be released immediately in order to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus in the City’s jails.

The 300 people to be freed are in addition to another 75 prisoners already released in the hope of curbing the spread of COVID-19. As of Tuesday, 54 people in city custody and 30 Department of Correction staff members had already tested positive for coronavirus.

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K.R. Claviger

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3 years ago

Literally, what about John Tighe – is he in any position to ask for release? Does he have the resources to appeal for it?

It’s easy to revile the obviously unsympathetic characters, but it would be truly sad if someone like Tighe died a few months short of release due to being confined in an unnecessarily dangerous environment, though I would guess that the medical facility at Ft. Devens may be better than most.

3 years ago
Reply to  Anonymaker

Hope that John Tighe is safe.

A Source
A Source
3 years ago

In an overflow or contamination situation, the US Marshals Service can transfer Federal prisoners to Rikers Island (a state facility) and then reimburse New York State for the costs on a per day/per prisoner basis.

So, if there is an outbreak at MDC, and MDC is shut down, Keith could get transferred to Rikers to be supervised by National Guard troops that have augmented or replaced Rikers prison staff that are infected or unable to work.

National Guard troops are a bit more relaxed than active duty. So, the inmate rules may not be enforced as precisely as normal staff.

Therefore, there is a chance that Keith Raniere could die on Rikers.

Viva Executive Success!

Scott Johnson
3 years ago

Avenatti and Cohen are too young. I would consider releasing Madoff, requiring him to be confined to a small living quarters and paying for his own medical care. Why should taxpayers pay for it?

3 years ago
Reply to  Scott Johnson

Madoff’s Ponzi scheme cost investors around twenty billion dollars.

Some of those investors reacted by committing suicide.
Why shouldn’t Madoff be considered violent?

Scott Johnson
3 years ago

Because you’re talking about a separate action and in many cases, bad motive. Many of his “investors” knew something was wrong, they assumed illegal insider trading and never said anything, but it was really a Ponzi scheme. Therefore, many of them had dirty hands and they probably took themselves out of circulation for that reason.

At this point in his life, I don’t want to spend more taxpayer money on him. Keep him holed up like Bronfman, with more limitations, such as no access to any TV, internet, phone, interviews, visitors, only leaving for doctor visits paid for by him, not medicare/medicaid, food (street justice could easily taken him out of our misery), etc. If he wants out of prison so bad, call Monte Hall and Let’s Make A Deal.

3 years ago
Reply to  Scott Johnson

Madoff doesn’t have any assets left. The government even forced his wife to give up almost everything that was in her own name, leaving her so broke that last I knew she was living with her sister, even though it appears that she really didn’t know anything about what was going on (though, typically, armchair theorists speculate that she “had to have known”).

I actually followed that case quite closely and have to agree with Shadow, there were multiple suicides in the wake of his fraud, and probably also people who died early – if we treated financial crimes the way we do violent ones, he would likely have been convicted of some degree of homicide. Others victims probably died early due to stress or inability to afford medical care, and many older people lost their retirements. He is another absolute remorseless psychopath and manipulative narcissist, like Raniere and maybe Clare Bronfman, and deserves to stay exactly where he is.

Scott Johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  Anonymaker

If Madoff can’t find a way to pay his own way, then leave him to die in prison.

3 years ago

Coronavirus Jailbreak: Freed Career Criminal Allegedly Threatens to Kill Woman at Knifepoint

A career criminal is accused of robbing and threatening to murder a woman at knifepoint after he was released from state prison thanks to a nationwide jailbreak push in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.

On March 17, according to Utah law enforcement officials, 42-year-old Joshua Haskell was released from a halfway house over a plan to free inmates deemed “non-violent” to stop the spread of the Chinese coronavirus. Haskell had previously been freed from Utah State Prison after serving time for drug crimes and a parole violation.

Two days after his release from the halfway house, Haskell allegedly entered a woman’s home while she was sleeping and awakened her, yelling at her that if she did not stop screaming he was “going to cut her head off,”

Police arrested Haskell at gunpoint and found drugs and drug paraphernalia on him.

The incident comes as cities across the United States have implemented plans to release state prisoners that they consider “non-violent” under the guise of coronavirus potentially spreading in prison among inmates.

Scott Johnson
3 years ago

Drug crimes should be considered violent, especially for convicted dealers/distributors. Even junkies should be considered literally out of their minds and potentially violent, as illustrated in this story. A parole violation should be considered a violent act against justice. Case closed.

About the Author

Frank Parlato is an investigative journalist.

His work has been cited in hundreds of news outlets, like The New York Times, The Daily Mail, VICE News, CBS News, Fox News, New York Post, New York Daily News, Oxygen, Rolling Stone, People Magazine, The Sun, The Times of London, CBS Inside Edition, among many others in all five continents.

His work to expose and take down NXIVM is featured in books like “Captive” by Catherine Oxenberg, “Scarred” by Sarah Edmonson, “The Program” by Toni Natalie, and “NXIVM. La Secta Que Sedujo al Poder en México” by Juan Alberto Vasquez.

Parlato has been prominently featured on HBO’s docuseries “The Vow” and was the lead investigator and coordinating producer for Investigation Discovery’s “The Lost Women of NXIVM.” Parlato was also credited in the Starz docuseries "Seduced" for saving 'slave' women from being branded and escaping the sex-slave cult known as DOS.

Additionally, Parlato’s coverage of the group OneTaste, starting in 2018, helped spark an FBI investigation, which led to indictments of two of its leaders in 2023.

Parlato appeared on the Nancy Grace Show, Beyond the Headlines with Gretchen Carlson, Dr. Oz, American Greed, Dateline NBC, and NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, where Parlato conducted the first-ever interview with Keith Raniere after his arrest. This was ironic, as many credit Parlato as one of the primary architects of his arrest and the cratering of the cult he founded.

Parlato is a consulting producer and appears in TNT's The Heiress and the Sex Cult, which premiered on May 22, 2022. Most recently, he consulted and appeared on Tubi's "Branded and Brainwashed: Inside NXIVM," which aired January, 2023.

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