Michael Avenatti Being Held in Jail Cell Once Used by Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman: Lawyer

January 21, 2020 Updated: January 21, 2020
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Attorney Michael Avenatti is being held in the same jail cell where drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was held, Avenatti’s lawyer said.

Avenatti, who violated bail terms and was arrested last week, is being held in the Metropolitan Correctional Center, the same New York prison where Jeffrey Epstein was kept.

Scott Srebnick, Avenatti’s lawyer, wrote in a letter to U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe that his client is being held in the center’s Special Housing Unit.

“It is the most secure floor in the entire facility. He is in a cell reportedly once occupied by El Chapo, on a floor that houses individuals charged with terrorism offenses,” Srebnick wrote. Avenatti is being held in solitary confinement apart from attorney visits and medical exams.

“There is an officer outside his cell 24 hours a day and two cameras focused on him,” Srebnick wrote. “The temperature in his cell feels like it is in the mid-40s. He is forced to sleep with three blankets. Not surprisingly, he has been having great difficulty functioning. He has not been permitted to shave.”

bureau of prisons
The Metropolitan Correctional Center, which is operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, stands in lower Manhattan in New York City on Nov. 19, 2019. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Neither Avenatti nor Srebnick know why the lawyer is being confined under such restrictive conditions. After being told of the situation, government counsel made inquiries to the center but the situation hasn’t changed as of yet. Avenatti hasn’t been able to review any of the new documents produced by prosecutors last week but hopes to “have an active role in his own defense,” Srebnick wrote.

At a minimum, the judge should order Avenatti be allowed to keep legal materials in his cell, have access to a computer, have legal visits in the regular attorney visiting room, and have the same social call privileges as detainees in the general population, Srebnick said.

The Bureau of Prisons, which runs the center, declined to respond when reached for comment.

Avenatti was arrested on Jan. 15 during a California State Bar hearing for trying to hide assets while out on bail, according to prosecutors.

Avenatti allegedly tried hiding $1 million he received in legal fees in April 2019 from creditors.

According to court documents, Avenatti used the money to pay rent on a luxury apartment in California, pay legal bills, and buy a Mercedes-Benz worth $50,000.

Another Avenatti lawyer, H. Dean Steward, said at a hearing that Avenatti did try to keep the $1 million from his creditors but claimed everything he did was legal. Avenatti is trying to pay off multiple debts and can pay them off in any order, he said.

Avenatti is facing charges in several cases, including defrauding Stormy Daniels, the woman who accused President Donald Trump of paying her off before the 2016 election.

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