Court Battles

Avenatti held in El Chapo’s old jail cell, lawyers say

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Michael Avenatti is being held in the former jail cell of Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, his lawyers said in a letter sent Monday, arguing that the well-known attorney doesn’t deserve the extreme precautions that authorities are making him endure.

Avenatti’s lawyer Scott Srebnick wrote a letter to Judge Paul Gardephe requesting Avenatti’s “immediate removal” to the jail’s general population so the legal team can better prepare for the upcoming trial. The lawyer is currently being held in the Special Housing Unit (SHU) in New York’s Metropolitan Correctional Center.

Avenatti, who gained prominence representing adult-film star Stormy Daniels in her lawsuits against President Trump, has been charged with blackmail after allegedly threatening to publicize accusations that Nike illegally paid families of college basketball recruits.

Srebnick wrote that Avenatti is being held in the “most secure floor” in the center and remains locked down in solitary confinement for 24 hours a day with an officer always outside his cell and two cameras on him. He allegedly is experiencing mid-40 degree temperatures and is “forced” to sleep with three blankets. 

“Not surprisingly, he has been having great difficulty functioning,” he wrote.

“We do not know the reason why he has been confined in the SHU under [special administrative measures],” Srebnick added. 

Avenatti’s conditions are affecting his legal team’s preparation for the trial, it said, as he is unable to receive documents to review or make notes unless “the busy officers” are involved, which Srebnick called “untenable.”

He said he was told accommodations could be made for prisoners if the legal team is asked, but that team was not available until Tuesday. The lawyer also said he worked with government counsel to move Avenatti, and they submitted “several inquiries at my request.”

Srebnick is asking a judge to allow Avenatti to hold legal materials in his cell, obtain access to a computer and have the same social call privileges as the general prison population.

Scott Taylor, a spokesperson for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, said in a statement that the bureau does not “release information on an individual inmate’s conditions of confinement” for privacy, safety and security reasons. Avenatti was moved to the Manhattan facility after spending three nights in solitary confinement in a Santa Ana, Calif., jail following his arrest last week for allegedly violating his bail. 

The prosecutors said he poses an “economic danger,” but Srebnick asserts that “there was no allegation that Mr. Avenatti was a risk of flight or that he posted a physical danger to anyone or to himself.”

Tags Donald Trump Metropolitan Correctional Center Scott Taylor
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