Convicted Attorney Michael Avenatti Agrees to Plead Guilty

Convicted Attorney Michael Avenatti Agrees to Plead Guilty
Michael Avenatti speaks to members of the media after leaving federal court in New York on Feb. 4, 2022. (John Minchillo/AP Photo)
City News Service

SANTA ANA, Calif.—Convicted attorney Michael Avenatti, who catapulted to fame representing adult film actress Stormy Daniels in a nondisclosure dispute with former President Donald Trump, has signaled in court papers that he plans to plead guilty in his fraud cases here in Orange County.

Avenatti is in federal prison now for stealing from Daniels and for an attempt to extort as much as $25 million from Nike. In the Nike case, he was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison, and he was sentenced to 4 years in the Daniels case earlier this month, but some of that sentence will run along with the other case, meaning he has about a combined 5 years to do in both cases.

Now Avenatti is seeking to offer a rare open plea, meaning he has no agreement with federal prosecutors.

“Usually open pleas are done because it’s a white collar case and both sides are so far apart in the loss amount you want to litigate just that, but that’s not true in this case,” Avenatti’s advisory attorney Dean Steward told City News Service. “In this case here the loss amounts alleged are pretty much not disputed.”

But federal prosecutors “want him to confess to a whole bunch of stuff” Avenatti said he didn’t do “and wasn’t even in this indictment,” Steward said.

Prosecutors have also said they want Avenatti to waive all writs and appeals, Steward said.

But Avenatti wants to jump ahead to a conviction so “the energy everyone would put into a trial will be put into sentencing,” Steward said.

Avenatti and the attorneys will discuss the potential plea deal with U.S. District Judge James Selna on Thursday. The plea would be made at a separate date if it goes through, with sentencing to occur after that.

Avenatti’s retrial would be on charges related to ripping off at least five clients of nearly $10 million in settlement funds between January 2015 and March 2019 to bail out his law firm from bankruptcy, fed off creditors and spend money on himself.

He was convicted earlier this year of identity theft and wire fraud in getting Daniels’ literary agent to send about $300,000 from her advance on her book “Full Disclosure,” to a bank account the attorney managed.

If the plea deal goes through it would wrap up those cases as well as tax and bankruptcy fraud charges that were originally planned to be part of a second trial.

Selna granted a motion from Avenatti for a mistrial in August of last year. Selna ruled that prosecutors failed to turn over relevant financial records to Avenatti. Selna said he did not find any evidence of intentional misconduct, but the failure to turn over the records was tantamount to an oversight and enough to warrant starting over again with a new trial.

Avenatti won the right on the eve of his trial in Santa Ana last year to represent himself with Steward acting as his advisory counsel.

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