According to a recent filing by his attorneys, former Stormy Daniels attorney Michael Avenatti is currently being held in solitary confinement in a prison in New York. Once a hero of the #Resistance and a possible 2020 Democratic contender, the celebrity lawyer descended into ignominy after federal investigators accused him of fraud, extortion, and embezzlement. At the same time, a separate federal investigation has accused Avenatti of trying to extort millions out of Nike.
Now, Avenatti is awaiting trial confined to a cell previously occupied by one of the most notorious criminals of the 21st century, according to his lawyers.
“He is in a cell reportedly once occupied by El Chapo, on a floor that houses individuals charged with terrorism offenses,” writes attorney Scott Srebnick in the letter filed on Monday.
Avenatti’s attorneys complain that their client has been “locked down for 24 hours a day, in solitary confinement,” not allowed to shave, and sleeping with three blankets to stay warm in a cell that “feels like it is in the mid-40s.”
“Not surprisingly, he has been having great difficulty functioning,” the filing reads.
According to officials with the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City, Avenatti’s placement in a Special Housing Unit (SHU) is for his own safety.
“Due to Mr. Avenatti’s high-profile case, his notoriety, Mr. Avenatti’s placement is for his own safety,” Warden M. Licon-Vitale responded in a filing the next day.
Given the long weekend, officials could not grant Avenatti accommodations any sooner than Tuesday, which they did. He will now be allowed to keep legal materials in his cell, according to Licon-Vitale. Nonetheless, even while acknowledging this timeline in the letter, Avenatti’s defense counsel filed the grievance on Monday.
— Big Cases Bot (@big_cases) January 21, 2020
The Newport Beach-based lawyer led an extravagant lifestyle that stands in stark contrast with his current conditions. A man with a taste for luxury goods and fast cars, he competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans as a professional racer, co-driving a Ferrari with a Saudi prince. The telegenic attorney owns approximately 20 Tom Ford suits and an array of Brioni ties. His living expenses, according to his wife, clock in around $200,000 a month.
These expenses—and the way in which he paid for them—wound up the focus of an IRS investigation that accused Avenatti of stealing millions from his own clients, including a mentally ill man with paraplegia.
The self-described “Fighter for Good” remained free on $300,000 bail for months after pleading not guilty. But on January 15, a judge ordered him to remain in federal custody for likely defrauding still more people after a grand jury had already indicted him on 36 counts of fraud, perjury, failure to pay taxes, embezzlement, and other financial crimes. Finding him in violation of his bail, Judge James v. Selna declared Avenatti an “economic danger to the community” and ordered him remanded into custody.
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