One last taste of (partial) freedom is coming for convicted fraudster and disgraced and disbarred attorney, Michael Avenatti.
United States District Court Judge for the Central District of California Judge James V. Selna ruled Saturday that Avenatti will be temporarily released from prison because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Avenatti was convicted in February of attempting to extort $25 million from Nike and is awaiting sentencing.
Aventatti will get out of the Manhattan Correctional Center for 90 days to ride out the pandemic.
He was first required to be held in quarantine at the jail facility for 14 days to ensure he doesn’t have the virus and can’t spread it into the community, the judge said. Avenatti is on day 10 of his two-week quarantine.
Avenatti’s attorney, Dean Steward, argued that Avenatti needed to be released because he is at high-risk of COVID-19 because he had pneumonia last fall.
Avenatti told his attorney “there have been four deaths (in the jail) due to coronavirus,” but the Bureau of Prisons would not confirm that, Steward said.
“Importantly, however, the MCC in New York City has no more coronavirus test kits. As such, the facility has no idea how many inmates or staff are infected,” Steward said.
The judge required Avenatti to post a $1 million bond, wear an electronic monitoring device and shelter in place in California. The judge also ordered Avenatti not to open bank accounts or credit cards or use computers and the internet during his release.
Another Avenatti friend, investment advisory firm CEO Hugh Bromma, has agreed to put up the bail money.
U.S. District Court Judge Paul G. Gardephe was scheduled to sentence Avenatti on his Nike conviction on June 17.
The convictions for attempted extortion and honest services fraud carry a combined potential penalty of 42 years in prison. The “good news” is that his sentence is likely to be less than the maximum. The “Bad news” is that Avenatti faces two other federal criminal cases.
He has been charged with stealing a $300,000 book advance from former client, Stormy Daniels. He was due to go on trial for that case on May 19 in New York City.
He is also charged with stealing millions from various clients in California and with tax evasion.
Judge Selna previously moved his California trial date from May 19 to Aug. 18 because no trials are being held during the pandemic.
Avenatti, who rose to national fame when he represented Daniels in her lawsuit against President Donald Trump, also had plans to run for president in 2020 as a Democrat.
Avenatti will have to return to custody in 90 days and, if he is convicted on the other two cases, he will quite likely spend the rest of his life behind bars.
He rose like a meteor, and though he was stealing from his clients left and right, he was a darling of the anti-Trump media.
This is perhaps his last, brief taste of freedom, a moment in the sun – in Venice California, outside the confines of prison.
May he make the most of it. It will no doubt be bittersweet.