Salem Radio Network News Tuesday, May 17, 2022


Michael Avenatti, U.S. lawyer who battled Trump, goes on trial in fraud case

By Luc Cohen

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Lawyer Michael Avenatti, a fierce critic of former President Donald Trump, goes on trial on Monday on charges he defrauded his former client, adult film star Stormy Daniels, whom he represented in cases against Trump.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan say Avenatti, 50, embezzled $300,000 in book contract proceeds intended for Daniels, in part by forging her signature in a letter to an agent.

Avenatti, who has pleaded not guilty, faces up to 22 years in prison if convicted of wire fraud and identity theft.

Avenatti gained wide attention and became ubiquitous on cable TV news when he represented Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.

Daniels said she had a sexual liaison with Trump and received $130,000 before the 2016 presidential election in exchange for not discussing her encounter with Trump, who denies it happened. Avenatti represented her in a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the nondisclosure agreement, which Daniels won, and a defamation case against Trump, which she lost.

Avenatti’s career ended abruptly in 2019 as prosecutors in New York and California brought dozens of criminal charges that could land him in prison for the rest of his life.

His lawyers asked on Saturday for a two-week delay in starting the trial relating to Daniels, saying a court policy that could require some witnesses to wear protective masks to stem the spread of COVID-19 would violate his right under the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to confront witnesses face to face.

Avenatti is appealing a February 2020 conviction and 2-1/2-year prison sentence for trying to extort up to $25 million from Nike Inc by threatening to expose its alleged corrupt payments to families of college basketball prospects unless it hired him to conduct a probe.

Nike has denied wrongdoing.

Avenatti is separately facing federal wire fraud charges in California from prosecutors who say he embezzled nearly $10 million from five clients.

Since his March 2019 arrest in the Nike case, Avenatti has spent most of his time confined at a friend’s California home.

(Reporting by Luc Cohen and Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Cynthia Osterman)


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