A California judge declared a mistrial Tuesday in lawyer Michael Avenatti’s embezzlement case, where he was accused of stealing nearly $10 million in settlement funds from his clients. Prosecutors allege that between 2015 and 2019, Avenatti stole funds from at least five of his clients: Geoffrey Johnson, Alexis Gardner, Gregory Barela, Michelle Phan, and Long Tran.
The Orange County judge ruled that federal prosecutors failed to disclose data in connection with a law firm server that included a database that tracked expenses and costs associated with cases. Judge James Selna said the prosecutors’ failure to provide possibly exculpatory evidence to Avenatti, who is representing himself, made the wire fraud trial that started more than a month ago too flawed to continue.
After Avenatti raised the issue last week, U.S. District Court Judge James Selna agreed that it should have been turned over and declared the mistrial. Selna said he thinks prosecutors’ failure to turn over the information was a mistake and found no malice or misconduct.
Avenatti directs "the court's attention" to the list of all the stuff the government was authorized to seize during the search. "If you fast forward to letter P…this is even more specific." Her's the warrant: https://t.co/l3WHMPfjiK pic.twitter.com/y2H6ybI2Lk
— Meghann Cuniff (@meghanncuniff) August 24, 2021
Avenatti celebrated the news outside the conference room. “This has been an incredibly difficult journey for my family, for my children, for my friends, and lastly, for me. I am extremely thankful to Mr. Steward, Ms. Cummings Cefali, and our entire team for standing by me and advocating tirelessly on my behalf,” he told a group of reporters. “Today is a great day for the rule of law in the United States of America.”
There's probably a lesson to be learned — maybe even a common lesson — from the character arcs of Michael Avenatti and JD Vance.
— Charles Bryan says Boo. (@charleshbryan) August 23, 2021
Judge Selna, who said there was no reason to believe prosecutors purposefully committed an offense, set a new hearing in the case for Sept. 2 and a tentative new trial date of Oct. 12.