The disgraced attorney who taunted former President Trump on cable television over comments he made about his porn star client will stand trial Monday in New York on charges he cheated her out of money.
Michael Avenatti allegedly stole the advance on Stormy Daniels’ 2018 memoir about her long-denied affair with Trump, federal prosecutors said. They accused Avenatti of using a falsified document to divert about $300,000 into his own account.
Avenatti pleaded not guilty.
Daniels, an adult film actress whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, is expected to be the government’s star witness in Avenatti’s trial in Manhattan federal court.
Prospective jurors were asked a series of questions, including if they could be fair knowing Daniels worked in the “pornography profession.”
Avenatti became a well-known Trump antagonist when he represented Daniels in her lawsuit against the former president. The suit sought to invalidate a nondisclosure agreement she signed after receiving a $130,000 hush payment from Michael Cohen.
The suit was dismissed as was a subsequent defamation action brought on Clifford's behalf by another lawyer.
Avenatti even briefly flirted with a run for president before criminal charges stacked up against him. He was convicted in 2020 of trying to extort tens of millions of dollars from Nike and he faces a retrial in California on charges he stole from clients other than Daniels.
Avenatti was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in the Nike case and is under house arrest after being released from custody in New York in April 2020 due to the threat of COVID-19 He pleaded not guilty in the California case.
In the New York case, Avenatti allegedly sent a “fraudulent and unauthorized letter” to Daniels’ literary agent with instructions to send payments to an account Avenatti controlled, prosecutors said.
Once he had the money, he used it to pay employees of his law firm, to make a luxury car payment and for other personal expenses, according to the indictment.
“When [Daniels] inquired about the status of [her] advance fees, Avenatti repeatedly lied,” the indictment said, “including by stating that he was working on getting the fees from [her] publisher, when, in truth and in fact, Avenatti had already received the fees and spent them on his own personal and professional expenses.”
Avenatti allegedly stole $300,000 “and has not repaid [Daniels] half of that money,” the indictment said.