Avenatti addressed the court in a measured tone, citing differences of opinion with his attorneys over “scope and method” of cross examinations among other issues like timeliness of applications to the court.
“There has been a breakdown in the relationship between me and my counsel that goes to the heart of my ability to mount a defense,” Avenatti told Judge Jesse Furman in federal court in Manhattan.
Avenatti said he wished to represent himself immediately without delay so he may cross-examine Judy Regnier, his former employee.
Prosecutors allege that Avenatti — who helped negotiate the $ 800,000 advance for Stormy Daniels’ September 2018 book “Full Disclosure” — defrauded her by instructing her literary agent to send two of the four installments of the book advance totaling nearly $ 300,000 to an account controlled by him, rather than directly to Daniels.
He allegedly sent a fabricated letter to the agent with a manufactured signature from Daniels redirecting book advance payments from Daniels’ account to another account he controlled without her knowledge, prosecutors say.
His court-appointed federal defenders will remain as standby counsel to assist in procedural matters and be prepared to take over his defense should the judge choose to terminate his ability to represent himself for any reason.
The government did not object to Avenatti representing himself, but prosecutor Robert Sobelman called it a strategy and noted to the court that in a recent California case when Avenatti represented himself, he cross-examined Regnier for an extended amount of time over two trial days.
It was not immediately discussed in court how it would work if Avenatti were to choose to testify in his own defense.
Earlier in the day, Furman cut off Avenatti’s former defense attorney Andrew Dalack’s cross-examination of Stormy Daniels’ literary agent Luke Janklow.
The judge cautioned the attorney to move on and wrap up certain lines of questioning several times during the cross examination until eventually Furman told the lawyer to sit down.
Outside the presence of the jury, Furman explained his reasoning for stopping the cross-examination, “I don’t think there was a single relevant question,” during Dalack’s 45 minutes of cross-examination Tuesday morning.
Avenatti is expected to examine witnesses moving forward in the case, including Stormy Daniels who is expected to testify Wednesday.