SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) – Michael Avenatti, the audacious attorney who was recently sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison in a $ 25 million extortion case in New York, is due to be tried Wednesday in California for he embezzled millions of his customers.
Opening statements are planned in Santa Ana in the second trial this month for Avenatti, who once represented porn actress Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against President Donald Trump. Avenatti is expected to represent himself in the case after U.S. District Court judge James V. Selna granted his motion on Tuesday.
The Southern California Attorney’s Office has accused the 50-year-old attorney, currently suspended from practicing law in California, of defrauding five of his clients of nearly $ 10 million by negotiating and collecting settlement payments on their behalf and holding them in accounts he directs controlled.
In one case, authorities said Avenatti raised $ 4 million from the Los Angeles district for a man who suffered injuries while in custody and became paraplegic after attempting suicide. Avenatti denied the settlement was reached and paid the man much smaller amounts, ranging from $ 1,000 to $ 1,900, which were advances towards the broader settlement, prosecutors said in court files.
In another case, Avenatti took a $ 2.75 million settlement for a customer and used the majority of the money to buy a private jet, the records said.
Avenatti is faced with 10 wire transfer fraud cases in connection with the allegations, which extend from 2015 to 2019.
In California, he is charged with bankruptcy, banking and tax fraud. He is expected to be tried on these allegations later this year after Selna split a 36-point charge into two trials.
In the process, federal prosecutors said it was expected to take them three weeks to bring their case and call about 30 witnesses. The US Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles declined to comment prior to the opening statement.
On the court records, attorney H. Dean Steward – who previously represented Avenatti and continues to assist in the case – raised concerns about the jury’s selection process and tried unsuccessfully to delay the process, arguing that a broader public would exercise their rights following Avenatti’s conviction in New York could affect in this case. A message left for stewards was not returned.
Avenatti was best known for publicly fighting Trump, but criminal fraud charges in California and New York interrupted his rapid ascent. He was convicted in New York after being convicted of attempted extortion and other charges related to representing a youth basketball league organizer in Los Angeles who was upset that Nike had ended its league sponsorship.
Avenatti faces another criminal case in New York on charges of cheating on Daniels out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Avenatti represented her in trials against Trump in 2018 and often appeared on cable news broadcasts denigrating the Republican president.
Daniels said a rendezvous with Trump a decade earlier resulted in her paying $ 130,000 from Trump’s personal attorney to keep silent in 2016. Trump denied the affair.
Avenatti investigated how he ran against Trump in 2020 but his political ambitions fizzled out when he was criminally charged. He pleaded not guilty on all charges and alleged that he was the victim of politically motivated attacks.
Avenatti is currently suspended from practicing the legal profession in California, according to the state bar association.
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