Michael Avenatti stole nearly 300,000 dollars (£223,000) in book proceeds from porn star Stormy Daniels, a prosecutor has told jurors as the once high-flying lawyer’s third criminal trial in two years began.
California lawyer Avenatti has insisted he is innocent of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft charges and his lawyers said he is likely to give evidence during the trial in Manhattan federal court.
Assistant US Attorney Andrew Rohrbach told jurors that Avenatti lied repeatedly to steal nearly 300,000 dollars from Daniels, whom Avenatti represented in 2018 in lawsuits against ex-president Donald Trump.
“This is a case about a lawyer who stole from his client, a lawyer who lied to cover up his scheme. That lawyer is the defendant Michael Avenatti,” Mr Rohrbach said as he pointed at the 50-year-old on trial.
Defence lawyer Andrew Dalack said his client did not steal any money, and had a fee agreement to share any money from the book deal.
“This has no business in federal criminal court,” Mr Dalack said.
“And Mr Avenatti is not guilty.”
Mr Dalack said Avenatti had “transformed a rather obscure adult entertainer into a household name” and given her hundreds of thousands of dollars only to be faced with false accusations from her.
But he said that was not uncommon for Daniels, who when she did not “get her way, she turned on the people closest to her”.
Avenatti was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison last year after being convicted of trying to extort up to 25 million dollars (£18.5 million) from sportswear giant Nike.
He has not yet begun serving the sentence.
Avenatti is awaiting retrial in a California case – on charges that he cheated clients of millions of dollars – after a mistrial last year.