Michael Avenatti, the befallen lawyer who became a Democrat hero for representing pornographic actress Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against former President Donald Trump, was found guilty by a jury on Friday of cheating his former client out of money owed for her book about an alleged affair with Trump.
Avenatti was convicted on charges of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection with cheating Daniels out of nearly $300,000 in proceeds from her book, Full Disclosure. The disgraced attorney faces a maximum prison penalty of 20 years for the wire fraud charge, while the aggravated identity theft charge carries a two-year jail term.
The AP reports:
Avenatti dumped his lawyers and decided to represent himself shortly after the trial began, setting up a face-to-face showdown with Daniels, his former client, who appeared in a new role as star witness.
Prosecutors portrayed Avenatti as a common thief and serial liar. He countered by seeking to cast himself as a white knight who came to the rescue of Daniels until he turned on her.
Over two days of cross-examination, he questioned her about the allegations that he’d swindled her out of book proceeds — and about ghost stories she’d told for a possible show about the supernatural world.
“The case isn’t as clear-cut as the government wants everybody to believe,” Avenatti claimed to reporters as the jury deliberated the case.
Friday’s ruling is the latest legal blow to Avenatti, who has yet to begin his 30-month sentence for attempting to extort millions of dollars from Nike. He is also accused of cheating several clients out of money in Los Angeles.
Avenatti’s anti-Trump stance previously earned him copious amounts of airtime on cable news shows, particularly on CNN. In 2018, CNN’s Reliable Sources host Brian Stelter even declared that he was taking Avenatti “seriously” as a possible presidential candidate in 2020.
“I don’t know if it’s a good thing that star power and TV savvy is required for the job. But I think it is. And by the way, I think President Obama also had a lot of TV star power and that helped him, pre-Trump. But Trump is more evidence of this, and looking ahead to 2020, one reason why I’m taking you seriously as a contender is because of your presence on cable news,” Stelter said at the time.
Ultimately, Avenatti ruled out a run for the White House.