Prosecutor: Avenatti stole from Stormy Daniels, lied to cover up scheme
A prosecutor is accusing California lawyer Michael Avenatti of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from adult film actress Stormy Daniels and then lying to cover up the scheme, as the attorney’s criminal trial begins in Manhattan.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Rohrbach told a jury on Monday that Avenatti stole almost $300,000 in book profits from Daniels, whom he represented in 2018 as she was suing then-President Donald Trump, according to The Associated Press. Rohrbach claimed that the attorney frequently lied to surreptitiously obtain the funds.
Daniels published a memoir titled “Full Disclosure” in 2018.
“This is a case about a lawyer who stole from his client, a lawyer who lied to cover up his scheme. That lawyer is the defendant Michael Avenatti,” Rohrbach said in court, pointing at Avenatti, according to the AP.
The defense, however, is objecting to such a characterization, telling the jury that Avenatti did not steal money and instead obtained the funds in accordance with an agreement he had with Daniels, which allotted him a share of profits made from the book, according to the AP.
Defense attorney Andrew Dalack said “this has no business in federal criminal court,” adding “and Mr. Avenatti is not guilty,” according to the AP.
Dalack said Avenatti “transformed a rather obscure adult entertainer into a household name” and gave her large amounts of money, but is now the target of false claims.
The defense attorney said such behavior by Daniel was not rare, telling the jury that when she did not “get her way, she turned on the people closest to her,” according to the AP.
A prosecutor, however, told the jury on Monday that “there was no agreement for the defendant to get any piece of Ms. Daniels’s book money,” according to The New York Times.
Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, sued Trump and his former personal attorney Michael Cohen for defamation and to invalidate a $130,000 nondisclosure agreement that was signed weeks before the 2016 presidential election.
The trial that began on Monday is Avenatti’s third criminal trial in two years. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison in July after being found guilty of attempting to extort up to $25 million from Nike in 2020, but has yet to serve jail time.
He is also the subject of an embezzlement case, in which he is accused of stealing millions of dollars in settlement funds from clients. A district judge, however, ruled a mistrial in August after determining that federal prosecutors did not give Avenatti relevant financial evidence connected to the case.
The attorney is representing himself in that case, with the help of an advisory counsel.
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