Trial Begins in Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels Embezzlement Case

Assistant U.S. Lawyer Andrew Rohrbach indicates previous lawyer Michael Avenatti throughout his criminal trial at the United States Court House in New York City City, January 24, 2022 in this courtroom sketch. (Jane Rosenberg/Reuters)

Celeb attorney Michael Avenatti is standing trial in Manhattan on Monday over claims that he embezzled almost $300,000 from his renowned previous customer, adult starlet Stormy Daniels, whom he represented in 2018 in claims dealing with the Trump project’s efforts to conceal the prospect’s previous sexual encounter with Daniels.

District attorneys declare that Avenatti, who assisted protect the $800,000 advance for Daniels’s book Complete Disclosure, dedicated wire scams and worsened recognize theft when he had $300,000 of this amount funneled to his account under incorrect pretense of permission from Daniels. Avenatti supposedly created Daniels’ signature on a letter impersonating her approval to wire the funds, according to the indictment.

When Daniels asked where the very first advance installations went, Avenatti supposedly lied and informed her the publisher had actually not made the payments yet. The prosecution claims that the attorney used the money to cover his professional and personal expenses.

For the next several months, Avenatti supposedly doubled down on the story he had actually fed Daniels, that the publisher had not initiated the payments, until she communicated with the firm directly and exposed the alleged lie.

“This is a case about a lawyer who stole from his client. A lawyer who lied to cover up the scheme,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Rohrbach said before the Manhattan court Monday. “The defendant stole almost $300,000 from the person he was supposed to be looking out for.”

The defense asserted that Avenatti is innocent of theft and that the adult-film star owes her success and wealth to his work on her book deal. Avenatti has pleaded not-guilty to the charges against him.

In his opening statement, defense lawyer Andrew Dalack argued that Avenatti had claim to some of Daniels’ book revenues and that he was authorized to handle receipt of payments on her behalf. Rohrbach countered that Avenatti and Daniels had not agreed to this arrangement, however.

“This has no business in federal criminal court,” Dalack said. “What we have in this case is a disagreement, a fee dispute between an attorney and his disgruntled former client.”

Dalack said Avenatti had also “transformed a rather obscure adult entertainer into a household name” and provided her with her lucrative career opportunities.

In 2018, Avenatti represented Daniels in the hush-money scandal in which she was compensated $130,000 in campaign funds ahead of the 2016 election in exchange for her silence on a previous sexual encounter with Trump. Michael Cohen, Trump’s former individual attorney, was ultimately charged with project financing offenses for sending out the “hush money” to Trump’s accusers to secure the governmental prospect from criticism throughout the race.

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Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.