NEW YORK -- Convicted California lawyer Michael Avenatti wants leniency at sentencing for defrauding former client Stormy Daniels of hundreds of thousands of dollars, his lawyers say, citing a letter in which he told Daniels: “I am truly sorry.”
The emailed letter, dated May 13, was included in a submission his lawyers made late Thursday in Manhattan federal court in advance of a June 2 sentencing.
Avenatti, 51, should face no more than three years in prison for his latest conviction, or 4 1/2 years in all, because two convictions have destroyed his life, the lawyers said.
“This sobering reality is as sufficient and powerful a punishment and deterrence as any. Worse, Mr. Avenatti’s extreme rise and fall played out on the most public of platforms, an experience he is unlikely to ever recover from reputationally,” they said.
Last year, Avenatti was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for trying to extort up to $25 million from Nike by threatening to tarnish its reputation with claims that the sportswear giant was immersed in a college basketball recruiting scandal in which cash payouts were used to steer top-tier athletes to the best programs.
Then he was convicted by a jury this year for pocketing up to $300,000 of an $800,000 payout to Daniels for her autobiography, spending some of the money on his firm's payroll and personal expenses.
Insisting on representing himself just before Daniels was to testify, Avenatti forced his lawyers to take a back seat as he confronted his former client over advances she received for her book, “Full Disclosure,” published in fall 2018.
He tried to justify taking some book proceeds by citing other legal quests he took on for Daniels as he was litigating lawsuits brought on her behalf to negate the effects of a $130,000 payment she said she received in 2016 from Donald Trump's personal lawyer to remain silent about a tryst a decade earlier that Trump has denied. Shortly after the payment, Trump won the presidency.
In the presentence submission, Avenatti's lawyers noted that they had included a letter of apology that their client sent Daniels a week ago.
Included as an exhibit, the letter said he had reflected over the past several months about his life, their friendship and his legal representation of her.
“It is obvious that I failed you in many respects and that I disappointed you and let you down in multiple ways,” he wrote. “I wish that we could turn back the clock so that the mistakes I made would never be repeated. I am truly sorry.”
In citing the letter, Avenatti's lawyers also wrote: “Mr. Avenatti understands that some may view his remorse as too little too late, and that the Court may look skeptically on his contrition given the way in which Mr. Avenatti’s trial transpired. Nevertheless, Mr. Avenatti is genuinely remorseful, especially for the pain his actions have caused his family and close friends.”
They also noted that Avenatti wants treatment for alcohol use and to engage in therapeutic counseling services.
Prosecutors will file their own sentencing recommendations this month.