California lawyer Michael Avenatti rose to national prominence representing adult film star Stormy Daniels in lawsuits against Donald Trump, but on Thursday he was sentenced to four years in prison for stealing $300,000 from her.
In February, Avenatti was found guilty of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft for misappropriating the money from an $800,000 advance Daniels was contracted to receive from St. Martin’s Press for her 2018 tell-all, Full Disclosure. However, prosecutors charged Avenatti with defrauding Daniels by instructing her literary agent to pay two of the installments totaling $300,000 into an account that he controlled without her knowledge.
Judge Jesse M. Furman of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan gave Avenatti the mandatory two years in prison on the count of identity theft. He sentenced Avenatti to another two years for the fraud conviction—with 18 months of that sentence to be served at the same time as his 2.5 year sentence on a previous conviction for attempting to extort Nike for $25 million, and the other six months separately, the New York Times reports.
All in all, Avenatti will have to serve an extra 2.5 years on top of his existing sentence.
Furman also ordered Avenatti to pay $148,750 in restitution and forfeit about $297,000.
The judge said that although Avenatti had “done good in the world,” Furman also called his crimes “brazen and egregious,” saying they “breached the highest duty a lawyer owes” to a client.
Avenatti is currently appealing his conviction in the Nike matter and is awaiting a new trial in Orange County federal court on charges that he stole millions from five clients after a judge in that case declared a mistrial in August, finding that prosecutors had withheld exculpatory evidence.
As NPR notes, Avenatti, always a dapper presence on cable news in his heyday, appeared in court “wearing a drab beige prison uniform” when he delivered a statement saying he had “disappointed scores of people and failed in a cataclysmic way.”
That is not how the onetime liberal media hero wanted it. As journalist Meghann Cuniff reports, the former legal eagle’s public defenders had asked Judge Furman on Tuesday to allow their client to wear a suit to his Thursday date, arguing that “the significance of Mr. Avenatti’s sentencing proceeding would be better served if the Court allowed him to dress appropriately for the appearance.”
Avenatti’s public defenders are asking Judge Furman to allow him to wear a suit at his sentencing. “…the significance of Mr. Avenatti’s sentencing proceeding would be better served if the Court allowed him to dress appropriately for the appearance…” pic.twitter.com/g8yWUkEOEW
— Meghann Cuniff (@meghanncuniff) June 1, 2022
Apparently, that ruling did not go Avenatti’s way. We thought it was kind of a petty move by the court to refuse a man a decent suit at his own sentencing, but Avenatti’s counsel did not return our request for comment.
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