Tuesday 15 October 2019

Stormy Daniels' ex-lawyer charged with defrauding her over book deal

Former allies: Stormy Daniels and her ex-lawyer Michael Avenatti. Photo: EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ/AFP/Getty Images
Former allies: Stormy Daniels and her ex-lawyer Michael Avenatti. Photo: EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ/AFP/Getty Images

Chris Riotta

Michael Avenatti, a prominent attorney who became a figure of the resistance against Donald Trump by representing a porn star who claimed to have had an affair with the US president, has been charged with allegedly ripping her off.

Federal prosecutors said in court filings that the lawyer took money from Stormy Daniels that she should have received as part of a book deal.

Ms Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, was not named in the case. But it is clear by the filings that she is the client mentioned throughout Mr Avenatti's charges.

And a person familiar with the matter who was not authorised to speak publicly confirmed her identity.

Both Mr Avenatti and Ms Daniels rose to prominence after the porn star sued the president so that she could be released from a non-disclosure agreement she signed near the end of the 2016 presidential election.

Mr Trump has denied having had sex with her.

Her attorney became a face of the resistance, also representing families that had been separated at the US-Mexico border due to Mr Trump's hard-line zero tolerance policy that began the systematic separation of migrants' families in the region.

At one point Mr Avenatti was even considering launching a presidential bid, as Ms Daniels continued to discuss her supposed tryst with Mr Trump on daytime talk shows and nightly news hours.

Mr Avenatti's world appears to have come crashing down in recent weeks, however, amid a slate of new federal charges for an unrelated - albeit similar - incident involving sportswear company Nike.

The attorney has been charged in both New York and Los Angeles for allegedly attempting to extort millions of dollars from the shoe brand.

He has also been charged with allegedly stealing money from other clients.

Mr Avenatti has denied all of the allegations against him.

In a statement posted to his Twitter account, the lawyer said that none of the money relating to his former client's book deal was "misappropriated or mishandled".

"She received millions of dollars worth of legal services and we spent huge sums in expenses," he continued.

"She directly paid only $100.00 for all that she received.

"I look forward to a jury hearing the evidence."

He went on to claim he was "entitled" to money retained by Ms Daniels and that his "agreement for representation and compensation included a percentage of any book proceeds".

"I will be fully exonerated once the relevant emails, contracts, text messages and documents are presented," he continued.

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