Michael Avenatti guilty of stealing $300,000 from Stormy Daniels, facing up to 22 years in prison

Stephanie Clifford, known as Stormy Daniels in the adult film industry, is interviewed alongside her former lawyer Michael Avenatti as she leaves Manhattan Federal Court on April 16, 2018, in New York. (Alec Tabak/New York Daily News/TNS)

Molly Crane-Newman

New York Daily News

NEW YORK — A Manhattan jury found Michael Avenatti guilty Friday of stealing $300,000 from Stormy Daniels as he rose to fame representing her against former President Donald Trump — marking the disgraced litigator’s second conviction in as many years.

The disgraced lawyer faces up to 22 years in prison when sentenced for wire fraud and identity theft. Evidence showed that in 2018 he forged Daniels’ signature and redirected advance payments for Daniels tell-all, “Full Disclosure,” to an account he controlled.

He’s yet to begin serving 2 1/2 years in prison for trying to shake down Nike for for $25 million.

The California attorney, whose background is in civil, not criminal law, elected to defend himself against the felony charges, dumping his public defenders in open court on its second day.

Evidence showed Avenatti praised Daniels to her face as an “American hero” throughout 2018 and early 2019, while she wondered why her book payments were months overdue. He ridiculed her behind her back at the same time in conversations with her literary agent, making sure the publisher and author never spoke directly.

“Stormy Daniels is insane. She’s a porn actress. She doesn’t understand the real world,” Avenatti once told literary agent Luke Janklow.

Once staunch allies, Avenatti and Daniels faced off as Avenatti questioned her on the stand. His cross-examination sought to portray her as delusional and holding a grudge against him. He grilled the porn star about her new gig as paranormal investigator on the online show “Spooky Babes” and the show’s story lines, making for a surreal courtroom exchange.

“On one occasion, according to you, you were standing in your kitchen and you remember feeling a woman’s presence, but more strongly than normal, correct?” asked Avenatti.

“Correct,” said Daniels.

Avenatti chose not to testify after the judge warned prosecutors would be able to grill him about his long history of alleged theft from clients.

Avenatti argued that he hadn’t stolen from Daniels because she owed him money for his legal work.

“Ladies and gentlemen, this was my money. This was the firm’s money. This wasn’t Ms. Daniels’ money. We weren’t obligated to give Ms. Daniels money,” he said.


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