Avenatti pleads not guilty to defrauding Stormy Daniels

Avenatti pleads not guilty to defrauding Stormy Daniels
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Attorney Michael Avenatti pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to accusations he defrauded his former client, adult-film star Stormy Daniels.

Avenatti appeared before a federal judge on Tuesday in New York, according to CNN, where he faced charges of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. He had been accused by Daniels of stealing $300,000.

The embattled lawyer was hit with two separate indictments in New York last week — one for allegedly defrauding Daniels, though the indictment does not name her, and one for his alleged extortion of Nike.

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Assistant US Attorney Robert Sobelman told CNN Avenatti surrendered to federal authorities early Tuesday morning and was released on a bail package including a $300,000 personal recognizance bond.

As part of the bail conditions, Avenatti is prohibited from contact with Daniels except in the presence of counsel.

Federal prosecutors allege that Avenatti took money intended for a client, presumably Daniels, in a book deal and instead used it “for his own purposes, including, among other things, to pay employees of his law firm and a coffee business he owned.”

The indictment documents, unsealed last week, also claim that Avenatti told the client that he wouldn’t accept any form of payment for work he did in relation to the book deal, after signing a contract that gave him the authority to collect payments for that work.

A second indictment unsealed last week against Avenatti related to an alleged extortion scheme against Nike, claiming that Avenatti threatened “to cause substantial economic and reputational harm to Nike if did not accede to Avenatti” and another co-conspirator’s demands.

The pair allegedly threatened to hold a press conference on the eve of Nike’s quarterly earnings call to unveil allegations of misconduct by Nike staffers unless the company paid $1.5 million to Avenatti’s client. 

According to CNN, he will also plead not guilty in this case.

Avenatti insisted on his innocence in a tweet.

“No monies relating to Ms. Daniels were ever misappropriated or mishandled. She received millions of dollars worth of legal services and we spent huge sums in expenses. She directly paid only $100.00 for all that she received,” Avenatti tweeted from his account, now set to private, last Wednesday.

“I look forward to a jury hearing the evidence.”

Avenatti became a well-known figure during his representation of Daniels when prosecutors pursued a case last year against President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Democrats worried by Jeremy Corbyn's UK rise amid anti-Semitism Warren, Buttigieg duke it out in sprint to 2020 MORE's former personal attorney Michael CohenMichael Dean CohenFormer Trump lawyer Michael Cohen asks judge to reduce sentence Trump request for Ukrainian 'favor' tops notable quote list Karen McDougal sues Fox News over alleged slander MORE.

Cohen pleaded guilty to multiple felonies, including having made an illegal campaign contribution by paying $130,000 during the 2016 election cycle to Daniels to silence her claim of an affair with Trump. Prosecutors have said the payment was made at the direction of Trump.

Trump has denied the affair, while Cohen is now serving a three-year prison sentence.

Avenatti and Daniels terminated their professional relationship in February.

--Updated at 1:15 p.m.