A federal grand jury in Manhattan indicted hot-shot attorney Michael Avenatti on Wednesday, charging him with stealing about $300,000 of ex-client Stormy Daniels’ advance on her book and using that money to pay employees of his law firm and his coffee business.
The latest charges were filed in the Southern District of New York, where Avenatti already has been accused of extortion targeting Nike.
Today’s legal development goes a long way in explaining why Daniels, back in March, abruptly ended her professional relationship with Avenatti, saying he had “dealt with me extremely dishonestly.”
Avenatti shot to fame representing the porn star who claimed she had an affair with Donald Trump years ago and was paid hush money prior to the presidential election.
Manhattan federal prosecutors charged Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen with campaign-finance violations for the hush-money payment. Cohen pleaded guilty to that, and other crimes, and is in the slammer serving a three-year sentence, while Trump denies the alleged affair.
Avenatti became a frequent guest on CNN and MSNBC and was such a hot commodity that, about this time last year, Morning Joe panelist Donny Deutsch reported Avenatti was “already auditioning” for CNN chief Jeff Zucker and MSNBC president Phil Griffin. Avenatti himself told Vanity Fair that more than one network had approached him about doing a show.
Last August, Avenatti said he might make his own run at the White House.
As Daniels’ attorney, Avenatti helped negotiate an $800K advance for her book Full Disclosure, published last September. According to the indictment, Avenatti allegedly told Daniels’ lit agent to send two payments to an account controlled by him, then forged her signature on a letter authorizing the payment.
Avenatti had insisted to her that the publisher had skipped those payments, according to court documents. Daniels eventually contacted her publisher directly about the money, and discovered Avenatti’s rannygazoo, according to the indictment.
“No monies relating to Daniels were ever misappropriated or mishandled,” Avenatti tweeted in anticipation of Wednesday’s indictment. “She received millions of dollars worth of legal services and we spent huge sums in expenses. She directly paid only $100.00 for all that she received. I look forward to a jury hearing the evidence.”
He also tweeted, “I was entitled to any monies retained per my agreement with the client. My agreement for representation and compensation included a percentage of any book proceeds.”