Michael Avenatti was once a superstar lawyer with clients like Paris Hilton and Don Henley. Today, he is a convicted felon who will never practice law again.
Already serving a 30-month prison term for trying to extort more than $20 million from Nike, Avenatti will go on trial again in California next month. The charges this time: embezzling $10 from at least five clients, tax fraud, and bankruptcy fraud.
On Thursday, June 2, Avenatti made headlines once again for taking money from a client. This time, it was the sum of nearly $300,000 from one of his highest-profile clients: Stormy Daniels. In 2016, the then-prominent attorney represented the former adult actress in a hush-money scandal involving a particular presidential candidate named Donald Trump.
During the trial, Avenatti fired his court-appointed attorneys to represent himself. He cross-examined his former client and attacked her credibility based on Daniels’ belief in the paranormal and “unorthodox” career. He suggested that he was entitled to the portion of the book advance he took despite this not being in their written contract. He intended to sway the juror by attacking her character as an adult film performer and bolstering himself as a polished attorney.
Daniels went public with statements that Trump paid her $130,000 to keep quiet about an affair between the two of them. Trump denied the affair, and Avenatti represented Daniels during the situation. He called himself “Stormy’s biggest champion” and helped her land an $800,000 book deal to chronicle her side of the story.
He also helped himself to a hefty broker fee for this deal. This week, Avenatti was sentenced to four more years in prison for stealing nearly $300,000 from Daniels. According to CNN, he did this by falsifying a letter from the actress to the publisher, instructing them to redirect advance payments into an account under his control.
However, the tactic backfired. District Judge Jesse Furman called Avenatti’s conduct “brazen and egregious” before commenting to the disgraced attorney, “I hope you put your considerable talents to better uses.”