Editor’s Note: Following the publication of this post, the start date for the trial concerning the $300,000 that Avenatti allegedly stole from Stormy Daniels was set for April 21, 2020. The post has been updated to reflect that new information.
Michael Avenatti, the silver-tongued and brash attorney who represented Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against Donald J. Trump, is scheduled to go to trial on November 12th on charges of trying to extort $20 million from Nike, Inc.
The charges stem from Avenatti’s threat to expose what he described as Nike’s improper payments to recruits for various college basketball teams if the company did not hire him to investigate the matter.
According to the indictment, Avenatti threatened “to use his ability to garner publicity to inflict substantial financial and reputational harm on the company if his demands were not met”.
The trial will be held in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York – and will be presided over by U.S. District Court Judge Paul Gardephe.
Avenatti 48, is facing up to 47 years in federal prison in conjunction with the Nike-related charges.
After he was arraigned on the charges last June, Avenatti released a statement in which he said: “I look forward to a New York jury hearing all of the relevant evidence relating to Nike. I have complete confidence in the truth and am confident that I will be exonerated at the end of the trial.”
Yeah… good luck with that.
Other Criminal Charges Pending With Respect to Stormy Daniels
Even if Avenatti is somehow able to win next month’s trial – and it’s going to be hard because the feds have him on tape clearly extorting Nike – he is still facing two more sets of criminal charges.
One of those involves charges that he defrauded his former client, Stormy Daniels, by diverting two payments that were supposed to go to her into his own bank account.
The two $148,750 payments were installments on an $800,000 advance she was to receive on a book she is writing.
Always looking to go on the offensive, Avenatti filed a lien against Daniels last week seeking more than $2 million, “for legal services rendered and cost and expenses advances”.
The lien was filed in the federal court in Columbus, OH, six days after Daniels reached a $450,000 settlement with the city over her arrest at a strip club last year. Daniels was arrested on suspicion of inappropriately touching an undercover officer following a performance she gave at the Sirens strip club in July 2018. The charges were dropped within hours by the City Attorney’s Office.
Daniel’s new attorney, Clark Brewster, said that Avenatti did not represent her with respect to the Ohio case and that he never sent her a bill for any related legal services.
On her Twitter account, Stormy reiterated that Avenatti did not represent her in the Ohio case – and went on to say that he collected more than $500,000 from a public fund he established to raise money for her legal case against Donald Trump.
“In the Ohio case I recently settled, Avenatti barked loudly to the media but did not represent me nor did I have an agreement with him in the case,” said Daniels. “When I met Avenatti he persuaded me to retain him on the basis that I pay him $100 and he would collect fees from a public fund he would generate for my cause”.
She said Avenatti drained the account of $500,000 without any true accounting of what the money was used for.
Whether or not Avenatti represented her in the Columbus case – and is entitled to any money from here on that matter – is irrelevant to the charge that he allegedly stole almost $300,000 from her book advance. That is the alleged crime for which he will eventually stand trial.
Of course, by the time this case comes to trial on April 21, 2020, he may be already in prison.
Avenatti’s Biggest Legal Problems Are in California
Even if he escapes conviction in the Nike case and the Stormy Daniels case – the two New York cases – Avenatti still has major legal hurdles to get over in California.
There he is facing 36 federal felony counts for fraud, perjury, failure to pay taxes, embezzlement and other financial-related crimes.
Not only are the California charges numerous – they are also the most repugnant.
According to the indictment in the case, Avenatti stole millions of dollars from five clients – and then tried to cover up his misdeeds.
One of the alleged victims is Geoffrey Ernest Johnson, a mentally ill paraplegic on disability who won a $4-million settlement in a lawsuit against Los Angeles County.
Johnson won the settlement, there is no doubt about it, but Avenatti did not bother to tell him.
The settlement funds were allegedly wired to Avenatti, as Johnson’s attorney, in January 2015.
But the lawyer hid that fact from Johnson for years – and only doled out a few “advances” to him – as if the case had not been settled and Avenatti was just being a good guy, helping out his client.
Johnson had no idea that the money Avenatti lent him was his own money.
Meantime, Avenatti blew through Johnson’s millions – all the while deceiving him that the case had not been settled yet.
Avenatti knew, of course, that Johnson was a paraplegic and mentally ill – and, therefore, how could he have as much fun with the millions as Avenatti could? Avenatti is a swinging, high-wheeling, cocaine-snorting, sex-loving, high-living celebrity lawyer – who had many more expenses than his client. Avenatti knew his financial needs were much greater than Johnson’s.
So he blew through Johnson’s money.
The California indictment also alleges that in 2017 Avenatti received $2.75 million in proceeds from another client’s legal settlement – but also concealed that settlement from his client. The very next day, Avenatti put $2.5 million of that money into the purchase of a private jet for himself.
Avenatti needed that jet to fly around the country to take care of his clients. But federal agents seized the Honda HA-420 jet at the airport in Santa Barbara, CA shortly after the indictment was unsealed.
Avenatti was also accused of embezzling from another client’s settlement of $1.6 million. Prosecutors claim that after the money was wired to one of his bank accounts, Avenatti denied receiving the money – and then promptly spent it all on personal expenses.
In all these cases and others, the clients did not receive their money – it went to support Avenatti’s lavish lifestyle.
It is important to note that Avenatti was not working for free for his clients. He was entitled to the customary 33 percent that lawyers get for representing clients in lawsuits. Avenatti took a more novel approach – he charged his clients 100 percent of their awards.
His clients got zero.
He is also accused of submitting phony tax returns [that’s right he made them up] and financial statements to Peoples Bank of Mississippi to secure more than $4.1 million in business loans.
If convicted on all counts in the California criminal case, Avenatti could be facing a staggering sentence of 335 years in federal prison.
Avenatti’s Personal Life
Much like the man himself, Avenatti’s personal life is a bit sketchy.
While it is known that he married Lisa Storie Avenatti, the owner of a luxury clothing business, Ikaria Resort Wear – and that they have a 3-year-old daughter – she apparently threw him out of the house back in 2017 because of an alleged affair.
Hopefully, she’s insulated herself so that she will not be held liable with respect to any of his former clients and other victims.
And there will certainly be a lot of people seeking reimbursement for the money he stole from them.
Avenatti Will Likely Die in Prison
Given the sheer breadth of the charges he is facing, it seems likely that Michael Avenatti will die in federal prison.
And given what he did to his clients, that’s just fine with me.
Attorneys who steal from their clients are among the most repugnant of professionals.
Especially when that involves the theft of funds from clients like a mentally-challenged quadriplegic.
The Clare Bronfman Connection
Ironically, one of Avenatti’s last clients was the Seagram’s heiress Clare Bronfman, the Director of Operations of Nxivm.
She retained Avenatti just days before his arrest to go after the publisher of the Frank Report, Frank Parlato, in a civil lawsuit over California real estate and to try to have the Frank Report – which has been highly critical of her – shut down.
Avenatti was also asked to join her criminal defense team in the Nxivm case where she was charged with racketeering.
Avenatti had a meeting with the prosecution where he proposed that Bronfman enter into a Third Party Cooperation agreement, an arrangement whereby a criminal defendant in one case provides information helpful to the prosecution in another case or evidence of criminality in an unrelated matter, in return for a more lenient plea deal or other considerations.
It is believed that Bronfman was prepared to pay Avenatti millions if he served up information about others’ criminality to the feds.
This was all revealed in a court hearing in April – that Avenatti had met with Deputy US Attorney Mark Lesko in the Eastern District of New York – to make the money-driven deal. In short, Bronfman would pay Avenatti millions and he would serve as an informant to the feds on other cases he was aware of – and Bronfman would supposedly get a better plea deal in the Nxivm case.
Neither Bronfman nor Avenatti bothered to tell the judge that he was representing her.
When a stern judge, Nicholas Garaufis, who had learned about it from the prosecution, asked Bronfman if Avenatti was representing her, Clare Bronfman, rather than answer, fainted dead away – suspending court proceedings.
She was led out to another room and offered an ambulance, which she declined. Court was adjourned to the following day, which gave the heiress sufficient time to think up the right answer – which was that Avenatti was retained mainly to go after Frank Parlato.