Michael Avenatti, who at one time seemed to spend every waking hour in front of television cameras on behalf of Stormy Daniels, now is spending most of his time in the courtroom. Having just been sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison for trying to extort $25 million from Nike, Avenatti today will be at the defense table as federal prosecutors in California deliver their opening arguments against him on charges that he cheated five of his legal clients out of $10 million.
Prosecutors allege that the lawyer negotiated and collected settlement payments on behalf of those clients but deposited the money in bank accounts that he controlled and paid the clients next to nothing. In one case Avenatti is alleged to have collected $4 million from Los Angeles County for a man who suffered injuries while in police custody and was left paraplegic after attempting suicide. Avenatti allegedly told the man the settlement was never received.
In another case, Avenatti used the bulk of a $2.75 million settlement payment for a client to buy a private airplane, according to court filings. In all, at this trial he faces 10 counts of wire fraud in connection with the allegations, which span from 2015 to 2019.
Also looming in his future is another trial in California on more than 25 charges of bankruptcy, bank and tax fraud. And in New York, prosecutors there are waiting their turn to try him in a criminal case that alleges he cheated Daniels out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In the California case starting today, Avenatti will act as his own attorney.