Lawyer Michael Avenatti is convicted of stealing money from Stormy Daniels
Lawyer Michael Avenatti speaks to members of the media after leaving federal court Friday in New York. Avenatti has been convicted by a jury on charges that he cheated adult film actress Stormy Daniels out of nearly $300,000 that she was supposed to get for writing a book about an alleged tryst with former President Donald Trump. Photo by John Minchillo/The Associated Press.
Jurors in Manhattan, New York City, convicted lawyer Michael Avenatti on Friday for diverting to himself nearly $300,000 in book-deal payments intended for his client, adult film actress Stormy Daniels.
Avenatti was convicted of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, report Law.com, CNN, the New York Times and Law360.
Speaking to CNN afterward, Avenatti said he was disappointed in the verdict, and he looks forward to “a full adjudication of all of the issues on appeal.”
Avenatti had represented Daniels in her bid to invalidate a confidentiality agreement with former President Donald Trump. Later, he helped her negotiate a book deal for her memoir that included an $800,000 advance.
Prosecutors alleged that Avenatti obtained nearly $300,000 by emailing a letter with a forged signature to Daniels’ literary agent. The letter directed that the money be sent to an account that he controlled. He later repaid about half the money to Daniels.
During the trial, Avenatti referred to a contract to represent Daniels for $100, according to coverage by the New York Times and Law.com. The contract also provided that Avenatti would be entitled to “a reasonable percentage” of the proceeds if he helped Daniels finalize a book deal. The amount was “to be agreed upon between clients and attorney.”
Daniels testified that she and Avenatti never agreed on an amount. Avenatti, however, contended that he believed in good faith that he was entitled to the money under the contract.
Avenatti, acting as his own lawyer, had cross-examined Daniels during the trial. He questioned her about her belief in the supernatural, with the aim of diminishing her credibility, according to Law.com and the New York Times.
Daniels said she thought that she could talk to the dead, explaining, “It just happens sometimes.” She also told of her participation in a paranormal investigation project and prospective TV show called Spooky Babes.
Avenatti was convicted in a separate case of trying to extort millions of dollars from Nike. He was sentenced to two and a half years in prison. In yet another case, Avenatti was accused of stealing millions of dollars of settlement money from clients. A retrial is pending after a federal judge declared a mistrial.
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