Michael Avenatti Convicted of Wire Fraud and Identity Theft in Stormy Daniels Trial

The onetime liberal star and avowed Trump enemy says he will appeal the case of his former No. 1 client

California lawyer Michael Avenatti rose to national prominence representing adult film star Stormy Daniels in lawsuits against Donald Trump, but on Friday a jury in a Manhattan federal courtroom convicted him of stealing $300,000 from her.

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 book, 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.

“I am very disappointed in the jury’s verdict,” Avenatti told reporters outside the courthouse. “I look forward to a full adjudication of all of the issues on appeal.”

Avenatti is also currently appealing his conviction for attempting to extort $25 million from Nike, for which he was sentenced to two-and-half years in prison. Additionally, he’s 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.

Avenatti moved for a mistrial in the Daniels case today as well, when it appeared that a juror did not understand the function of a jury.

Judge Jesse Furman received a note from the jury Friday that read, “We have one juror who is refusing to look at evidence and is acting on a feeling. We need assistance on moving forward. She does not believe she needs to prove her side using evidence and refuses to show us how she has come to her conclusion.”

The jurors added, “Please help us move forward not going on any evidence, all emotions and does not understand this job of a jury.”

As CNN reports, the word “please” was underlined.

Although Avenatti argued that the jury was clearly deadlocked and that further instruction could only taint its deliberations, Furman dismissed his motion, saying, “I don’t think we’re there yet.”

Avenatti also moved for a mistrial earlier in the day, saying an interview Daniels gave to CNN’s New Day on Friday was “outrageous,” but Furman countered that there was no indication that the jurors saw it, and called the motion “beyond frivolous.”

While prosecutors brought ten witnesses to testify in six days, Avenatti fired his lawyers on the second day of the trial, represented himself, called no witnesses, and did not testify on his own behalf. Instead, he relied on the jury finding that the government had failed to make its case.

In his closing argument, Avenatti told the jury, “Ladies and gentlemen, the case that the government is attempting to feed you has a giant cockroach in the middle of the plate. Would you eat that dish, or would you send it back?”

Avenatti is scheduled for sentencing on May 24. In the meantime, he is in the early stages of building a $94 million lawsuit against the government, alleging that Donald Trump and disgraced former Attorney General Bill Barr conspired to send him to one of the worst detention cells in the country when he was first arrested.

Avenatti did not respond to a request for comment.

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