Michael Avenatti Found Guilty in Fraud Trial
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Michael Avenatti was convicted of charges he cheated pornographic film actress Stormy Daniels out of nearly $300,000 she was supposed to get for writing a book about an alleged affair with former President Donald Trump.
It was another crushing defeat for the California lawyer, who has faced a slew of legal problems after briefly rising to fame as one of Trump’s leading antagonists on cable news early in his administration.
Four years ago, Daniels and Avenatti were a united front against the then-president. Daniels said she had been paid $130,000 just before the 2016 presidential election to keep quiet about a sexual encounter with Trump that had occurred years before. Her lawyer, Avenatti, filed a lawsuit in 2018, saying a nondisclosure agreement accompanying that payment was void because Trump had not signed it.
But as Avenatti condemned the “thuggish behavior” toward Daniels by “people in power,” he was stealing from her.
“The defendant was a lawyer who stole from his own client. She thought that he was her own advocate, but he betrayed her, and he told lies to try to cover it all up,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Sobelman.
“The defendant’s lies and betrayal were exposed.”
Deliberations took place over three days before the jury handed down the verdict on Friday afternoon. Avenatti was ordered to surrender to federal officials in California by 5 p.m. on Monday. His sentencing date is set for May 24.
The wire fraud charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, while the aggravated identity theft charge carries a mandatory term of imprisonment of two years.
“I’m very disappointed,” Avenatti said. “I look forward to a full adjudication of all the issues. Thank you.”
The verdict comes as Avenatti has yet to start serving a 2 1/2 year prison sentence for trying to extort up to $25 million from Nike.
He’s also awaiting a retrial in Los Angeles on charges that he ripped off clients and others for millions of dollars. He represented himself last year for six weeks before the case resulted in a mistrial.