Michael Avenatti Found Guilty Of Defrauding Stormy Daniels
Michael Avenatti, the outspoken former attorney who shot to fame when he worked with Stormy Daniels to sue Donald Trump, has been convicted Friday of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft for stealing from the adult film star.
Avenatti has been found guilty of defrauding Daniels by tricking her literary agent into sending $300,000 of Daniels’ $800,000 book advance to an account he owned with a fake letter and then using the funds for personal expenses.
Avenatti, who represented himself in the trial after its second day, argued that he and Daniels had an agreement for him to take an undetermined percent of book proceeds and that he deserved compensation after carrying out legal work he claims was mostly pro-bono. He did not testify, or call any witnesses of his own, but did attempt to highlight some of Daniels’ bizarre beliefs when he had an opportunity to cross-examine her.
The jury deliberated for three days beginning on Wednesday, and there was reportedly tension between jury members as one of the 12 was accused of not regarding evidence and instead “acting on a feeling.”
Judge Jesse Furman read a note from the jury aloud, which said in part “She does not believe she needs to prove her side using evidence and refuses to show us how she has come to her conclusion. Please help move us forward not going on any evidence, all emotions and does not understand this job of a jury,” and the world “please” was underlined. Avenatti attempted to declare a mistrial when the note was read, but Judge Furman denied it.
In response to the claim, Judge Furman called the jury briefly into the court at noon on Friday and instructed them not “to be swayed by sympathy or emotion” when deciding their verdict with the evidence presented.
The jury of seven women and five men eventually delivered the guilty verdict, and Avenatti told CNN outside the federal courthouse “I’m very disappointed in the jury’s verdict. I look forward to a full adjudication of all the issues in appeal.”
Avenatti will be sentenced for these convictions on May 24. He still faces two trials in California, one for tax fraud and bank fraud, and one for embezzlement which was declared a mistrial last August and it’s unclear whether he will be retried.