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A Manhattan federal jury heard about porn star Stormy Daniels’ belief that “poltergeists” and “shadow figures” haunt her Louisiana home as part of her disgraced former lawyer Michael Avenatti’s fraud and identity theft trial on Friday.
Avenatti, the 50-year-old California litigator who is representing himself on charges he stole nearly $300,000 of Daniels’ $800,000 book advance, seemed eager to air the actress-turned-paranormal investigator’s dirty laundry and their behind-the-scenes attorney-client drama during her first full day of cross-examination.
As The Daily Beast reported, Avenatti clawed his way to national prominence in 2018, and nearly ran for president, while representing Daniels in her infamous hush-money lawsuit against President Donald Trump. Thanks to Avenatti’s relentless showmanship and TV appearances, Daniels’ case against the commander-in-chief dominated the press for months.
Now Avenatti and Daniels have reunited as legal adversaries, with the 42-year-old entertainer testifying against him in a proceeding filled with fireworks—and ghost stories.
Avenatti asked whether Daniels had claimed on her TV project Spooky Babes that she encountered unexplained and frightening experiences in her former home in New Orleans, and Daniels replied yes.
He followed up by asking whether she’s made statements about her house containing “poltergeist phenomenon” and “shadow figures,” and if she heard voices. “They are press for our TV show, and I stand behind them,” Daniels said of her claims.
The alleged hauntings began to escalate in March 2019 and led her then-boyfriend to question her sanity, Avenatti argued. “Of course,” Daniels answered. “This is all documented.”
Avenatti asked Daniels about a “portal” in her house that allowed a “dark entity to come through it,” and the actress replied, “That’s what I was told by a medium.”
Under questioning by Avenatti, Daniels testified that the “dark entity” caused her ex-boyfriend, unprovoked, to attack her and break her collarbone. “According to you, [the boyfriend] was held underwater in a bathtub, screamed at you, choked you so hard he broke your collarbone,” Avenatti said. “You looked at him and there was no color or white in his eyes?”
“Correct,” Daniels said.
Daniels also claimed she felt a woman’s presence in her erstwhile home, saying the woman was crying over a child. This specter was cutting her wrists and attempting to kill herself, Daniels alleged.
Avenatti probed Daniels’ comments even further, asking whether she once claimed a room in her house suddenly morphed and contained furniture that didn’t belong to her and she looked down to see her arm covered in blood.
“At the time you began to think you were crazy?” Avenatti said, to which Daniels said, “Correct.”
“Ms. Daniels, have you developed a weird obsession with the house which you still have?” Avenatti inquired. Daniels answered yes and testified that she “wants answers” on the alleged supernatural encounters there.
Avenatti then referred to Daniels’ claims that the house had caused her a series of disturbing health symptoms, asking if she said she had a “mass” in her head.
“A blockage,” Daniels clarified, adding that an energy healer doing a Reiki scan had discovered it. At that point in the morning’s testimony, Judge Jesse Furman asked Daniels to spell Reiki.
Daniels testified that she worried she had a tumor because her hair was falling out and she had memory loss and headaches, as well as bleeding from her eyes, ears, and nose. “Luckily I was wrong,” Daniels added of her fear of a brain tumor. She said the ailments disappeared once she moved out of the spooky domicile.
Avenatti was undaunted in this line of questioning, undoubtedly aware that he was only beefing up the spectacle of his criminal trial. “Do the dead speak to you?” Avenatti asked, followed by, “Are you able to have conversations with them?”
“Sometimes,” Daniels said. “We record them.”
Then Avenatti focused on a supposedly haunted doll named Susan, who Daniels has claimed can talk and calls her “mommy.”
“She can play the piano?” Avenatti asked.
“Someone else saw that, yes,” Daniels answered. “I believe they were telling the truth.”
Over the next few hours, Avenatti questioned Daniels about the crowdfunding website he set up for her legal battle with Trump and whether she used the proceeds to buy a truck. Daniels denied doing so.
Avenatti asked Daniels about her ex-husband Glenn and whether her high-profile litigation with Trump prompted him to clear Daniels’ bank account and run off with their daughter. Daniels said yes, and confirmed she’d asked Avenatti to drop the complaint against the president in April 2018.
But after Daniels’ book contract came through days later, she stayed the course in the civil court case, she said.
Avenatti asked Daniels whether she’d ever claimed she didn’t want to hire him and had no choice. “I was out of options,” Daniels said, adding that most attorneys wanted money upfront and some “were just afraid” of taking on Trump.
Daniels worked in a few zingers, too.
When Avenatti displayed her fee agreement with him, presenting her with the language that indicated he was “entitled to a reasonable percentage” of her book proceeds “to be agreed upon,” Daniels retorted, “You’re very entitled, yes.”
Avenatti asked whether Daniels knew lawyers generally don't work for free. “That’s why I was shocked that you would… for $100,” Daniels testified.
Stormy Daniels on Michael Avenatti: "Every time I watch him work, I think, This is what it must have been like to see the Sistine Chapel being painted. But instead of paint, Michael uses the tears of his enemies." https://t.co/xAEJ6JKyG5
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) July 10, 2018
The embattled legal eagle seemed to preen about his career, asking Daniels whether she told the government that Avenatti was nice and respectful during the 11 months he represented her.
“You lied to me,” Daniels blurted. “That isn’t respectful.”
Avenatti then asked whether Daniels told The New York Times in a fawning 2018 profile of the lawyer that watching him work was like seeing Michelangelo paint the Sistine Chapel.
“Yes, that’s what you told me to say,” Daniels testified.
Before Avenatti wrapped up his questioning, he asked Daniels whether she was ultimately ordered to pay Trump $300,000 in attorney’s fees. He was referring to a failed defamation suit he filed on her behalf.
“And you blame me for that?” Avenatti asked.
“Yes,” she replied.
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