Opening arguments begin Monday in criminal trial of Michael Avenatti over Stormy Daniels' book deal

Opening statements are set to start Monday in Manhattan in a third criminal case against Michael Avenatti, the once high-flying celebrity lawyer who rose to fame by representing adult-film star Stormy Daniels in her bid to terminate a hush-money deal that silenced her allegations of an affair with former President Donald Trump.

The former lawyer, a pugnacious Trump critic who once considered a presidential run of his own, fell from grace after being hit with three federal indictments in a six-week period in 2019.
Avenatti became a cable television fixture during his representation of Daniels, who was a central figure in the hush-money scandal that resulted in Manhattan federal prosecutors charging Michael CohenTrump’s former personal attorneywith campaign finance violations for money he paid to silence women, including Daniels, who claimed affairs with Trump.
    Cohen, who pleaded guilty to those and other crimes, was recently released after serving a prison and home-confinement sentence. Trump has denied the alleged affairs.
      Avenatti, who cajoled Trump and Cohen over Twitter and appeared side-by-side with Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, in tell-all television interviews, now finds himself behind the defense table squaring off against his former client who helped catapult his celebrity status and career.
        Si es condenado, Avenatti faces a maximum sentence of up to 22 years in prison on charges of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.
        In the case involving Daniels, prosecutors allege that Avenattiwho helped negotiate the $ 800,000 advance for her September 2018 libro “Full Disclosure” — defrauded Daniels by instructing her literary agent to send two of the installments of the advance totaling nearly $ 300,000 to an account controlled by him, rather than directly to Daniels.
          When her agent told Avenatti that she couldn’t do so without Danielsauthorization, Avenatti sent the agent a letter with a forgery of Danielssignature, según la acusación. Avenatti then lied to Daniels, telling her the publisher hadn’t made the payments, when in reality he used the money to cover payroll costs for his law firm, Eagan Avenatti LLP; a $ 3,900 lease payment for a Ferrari; and expenses including dry cleaning, airfare, hotels and car services.
          Who is Michael Avenatti?

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          In the late months of 2018 and through the beginning of 2019, Daniels repeatedly asked about the missing payments, and Avenatti allegedly continued to lie to her, until Daniels made direct contact with her publisher, and the scheme began to unravel, según la acusación. She cut off her professional relationship with Avenatti around the time of the indictment.
          When Avenatti was charged in May 2019 él tuiteó out a response: “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. I look forward to a jury hearing the evidence.
          Daniels is expected to be a star witness in the prosecution’s case and could take the stand in Manhattan federal court as early as Tuesday, prosecutors said during a recent hearing.
          Potential jurors were asked during jury selection if Danielsprofession in the pornography industry may make it difficult for them to be fair and impartial. They were also questioned as to their knowledge of the media coverage surrounding Avenatti and his former client.
          Judge Jesse Furman ruled over government objections that Avenatti’s counsel can cross examine the adult film star about herbeliefs in the paranormaland past public statements she’s made about experiencing visions.
          I think that the jury could conclude that that is probative of her ability to accurately perceive events and to her credibility,” Furman said in court.
          The defense also subpoenaed Danielscurrent attorney to potentially call him as a witness at the trial. They said they might want to question him about a recorded phone call he made to Avenatti about some of the charges in this case. El abogado, Clark Brewster, has moved to toss that subpoena but the judge has yet to rule on that.
          Avenatti’s defense has indicated in court filingsthere is a strong likelihoodthat the former celebrity lawyer may take the stand in his own defense.
          There were preliminary plea deal discussions but a formal deal never materialized, the parties acknowledged during a recent hearing.
          Avenatti is now represented by court-appointed federal defenders have running out of funds to retain counsel after years of litigation, según documentos judiciales.
          Prosecutors have indicated they will likely rest the government’s case by the end of the week with the entire case expected to wrap in a total of two weeks. Furman said he’d swear in a panel of 12 jurors and six alternates Monday ahead of opening statements.

          Years of litigation for alleged scams

          En febrero 2020, Avenatti was convicted in New York of attempting to extort millions of dollars from Nike, by threatening to publicly claim the athletic apparel giant was illicitly paying amateur basketball players. He was sentenced last July to 30 meses en prisión for which he’s expected to report to a federal prison work camp in Oregon.
          A former employee of Avenatti who testified against him during the Nike trial is also expected to testify remotely from California during this trial, prosecutors have indicated.
          His report date for that sentence has been pushed pending the outstanding litigation.
          Avenatti was released from the now-defunct Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan in April 2020 over Covid-19 concerns amid the rise of the pandemic. He has been in home confinement at a friend’s apartment in California.
          Él recently filed a formal claim for $ 94 millón in damages against the Bureau of Prisons for his treatment at MCC, where Avenatti alleges he was treated poorly in dire conditions at the order of then-Attorney General William Barr, según la denuncia.
            Un juez federal granted a mistrial in another case in California in which Avenatti was accused of embezzling nearly $ 10 million in settlement funds from at least five clients for personal use. The judge granted the motion for mistrial last August on technical grounds, ruling that prosecutors failed to turn financial evidence over to Avenatti’s team. Avenatti appealed the possibility of a retrial and it is unclear if he will be retried in that case.
            Avenatti is also facing a second trial in California where he has been charged with tax fraud and bank fraud. He has pleaded not guilty.

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