Michael Avenatti found guilty of stealing $300,000 from Stormy Daniels

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NEW YORK — Michael Avenatti has reached a new low: Guilty of stealing from the porn star client who made him famous.

A Manhattan jury convicted the bulldog lawyer of stealing nearly $300,000 of book advance payments from Stormy Daniels — marking his second conviction in two years.

Evidence showed that in 2018, Avenatti forged Daniels’ signature and redirected advance payments for her tell-all, “Full Disclosure,” to an account he controlled — badmouthing her behind her back while pretending to be an ally to her face.

The disgraced California lawyer faces up to 22 years in prison when sentenced for wire fraud and identity theft. He is yet to begin serving 21/2 years in prison for trying to shakedown Nike for $25 million.

“Rather than advise his clients in their best interests, Avenatti instead used his law degree as a license to steal. Michael Avenatti has once again been convicted by a unanimous jury for blatant abuse of his privilege to practice law and for betraying his solemn responsibility to his clients,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said.

The verdict might be rock bottom for Avenatti, who must surrender to federal authorities on Monday. His trial in California on separate charges of defrauding clients and financial crimes ended in a mistrial. Prosecutors have not yet said whether they’ll seek a retrial in that case.

The Daniels case revolved around the client who made Avenatti a household name.

Daniels hired Avenatti, 50, while trying to escape a nondisclosure agreement preventing her from speaking about her alleged tryst with Donald Trump in 2006. Daniels had accepted a $130,000 hush money payment, delivered by Trump’s then-personal attorney Michael Cohen, in exchange for her silence in the leadup to the 2016 presidential election.

Avenatti agreed to represent her, though she didn’t have much money to pay him. Instead, the lawyer planned to make big bucks off of a legal victory against Trump, Daniels testified. Avenatti became so famous through his relentless attacks against Trump on Daniels’ behalf that in 2018 he mulled running for the White House.

The legal windfall never came — but Avenatti needed money.

He argued that he was entitled to the money he appropriated from Daniels because she owed him money for his legal work.

“Ladies and gentlemen, this was my money. This was the firm’s money. This wasn’t Ms. Daniels’ money. We weren’t obligated to give Ms. Daniels money,” he said.

Text messages introduced in court showed Avenatti praised Daniels to her face as an “American hero” throughout 2018 and early 2019, while she wondered why her book payments were months overdue. Behind her back, Avenatti told the book publisher Daniels was “insane,” dismissing her as a “porn actress (who) doesn’t understand the real world.”

He spent her money on payments for his Ferrari, as well as expenses for his law firm and coffee business.

An attorney for Daniels, Clark Brewster, hailed the verdict.

“Stormy is relieved this nightmare is over,” said Brewster. “Still, Mr. Avenatti possessed the uncanny ability to steadfastly deny the crimes and persuade others he was entitled to the embezzled funds. Stormy is pleased that the justice system worked.”

Cohen, once one of Avenatti’s main adversaries, was also pleased.

”Justice has been served. Michael Avenatti has shown himself to be what I have always known him to be: a conman, a liar and a thief,” Cohen told The New York Daily News.

Avenatti dumped his defense team on the second day of trial. He cross-examined Daniels himself, seeking to portray her as delusional and holding a grudge against him. He grilled Daniels about her new gig as paranormal investigator on the online show “Spooky Babes.”

“On one occasion, according to you, you were standing in your kitchen and you remember feeling a woman’s presence, but more strongly than normal, correct?” asked Avenatti.

“Correct,” said Daniels.

Avenatti chose not to testify in his own defense after the judge warned him that prosecutors would be able to grill him about his long history of alleged theft from clients.

The verdict came shortly after the jury said it was deadlocked because of one juror who refused to participate. Verdict sheets released by the court showed a juror had checked “not guilty,” then scratched it out and checked “guilty.”

“I’m very disappointed in the jury’s verdict. I am looking forward to a full adjudication of all of the issues on appeal,” Avenatti said outside the courtroom.