Court Battles

Judge declares mistrial in Michael Avenatti embezzlement case

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A California judge on Tuesday declared a mistrial in Michael Avenatti’s embezzlement case, in which the lawyer is accused of stealing millions of dollars in settlement funds from clients.

U.S. District Judge James V. Selna ruled a mistrial would be declared because federal prosecutors did not give Avenatti, who is representing himself with the help of an advisory counsel, relevant financial evidence, The Associated Press reported.

Specifically, prosecutors failed to pass along data banded to a law firm server that had a database tracking expenses and costs connected to the case, NBC News reported, citing officials.

Selna scheduled the new trial to begin on Oct. 12.

“This was obviously important stuff that they knew about and didn’t turn over,” said H. Dean Steward, Avenatti’s advisory counsel, according to The Los Angeles Times.

The ruling came after Avenatti brought the issue to the judge’s attention last week, according to NBC News. Selna at the time noted that the information should have been given to Avenatti.

She said she did not find any malice or misconduct in the prosecutors’ failure to turn over the information, contending that it was a mistake, NBC News reported.

Avenatti welcomed the decision after it was dropped, telling reporters it was “a great day for the rule of law in the United States of America.”

“This has been an incredibly difficult journey for my family, for my children, for my friends and lastly, for me. I am extremely thankful to Mr. Steward, Ms. Cummings Cefali and our entire team for standing by me and advocating tirelessly on my behalf,” he added.

Prosecutors have accused Avenatti of stealing almost $10 million in settlement funds between 2015 and 2019 from at least five clients, according to NBC News.

He is also facing bankruptcy and bank and tax fraud charges in California, and will likely be tried for those counts later this year.

Avenatti also faces legal trouble in New York where he is accused of defrauding Stormy Daniel, an adult film actress who said she had an affair with former President Trump in 2006. Avenatti had represented Daniels.

The lawyer, however, is already facing some prison time. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison last month after being found guilty in February of last year of attempting to extort up to $25 million from Nike.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California declined to comment to The Hill, citing the pending case.

Updated at 7:45 p.m.

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