Michael Avenatti pleads not guilty to defrauding Stormy Daniels

Tuesday, May 28, 2019
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The pugilistic and embattled attorney Michael Avenatti pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges that he defrauded his most famous client, porn star Stormy Daniels.

NEW YORK -- The pugilistic and embattled attorney Michael Avenatti pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges that he defrauded his most famous client, porn star Stormy Daniels.

Avenatti barely spoke during his 10-minute appearance before a federal judge in New York, except to answer a few brief procedural questions. His lawyer entered the plea on his behalf on charges of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Bail was set at $300,000. Avenatti, who surrendered to federal authorities in the early morning, agreed to have no contact with Daniels while the case is pending.

Later Tuesday, Avenatti was asked by reporters to comment as he walked to courthouse elevators.

"Anybody know when the president and Don Jr. are going to be arraigned?" he quipped.

It was the continuation of a feud he has carried on with President Donald Trump and Donald Trump Jr. during television appearances and through social media.

In his second appearance of the day, one of Avenatti's lawyers told U.S. District Judge Deborah A. Batts, who would preside over a trial, that he thought the case should be combined with charges Avenatti faces in California. A prosecutor disagreed. The judge left the issue for future consideration.

Then, Avenatti headed off to a third court appearance, this one involving separate charges that Avenatti tried to extort millions of dollars from Nike, the sportswear company.

Avenatti rose to fame representing Daniels in her battle to be released from a nondisclosure deal she had signed regarding an alleged affair with the president. He made scores of appearances on cable news shows criticizing Trump, who has denied that an affair occurred.

Avenatti was indicted last week on charges that he cheated Daniels out of $300,000 she was owed for her book, "Full Disclosure," which was published in October.

According to the indictment, Avenatti emailed a letter, purportedly from Daniels, to her literary agent with instructions that payments from her $800,000 book deal be deposited into an account he controlled. Prosecutors say Daniels never authorized the letter and was unaware of it.

Avenatti then used the money to pay business and personal expenses, including the costs of hotels, airfare, dry cleaning and his Ferrari, the indictment said.

The charges related to Daniels are the third criminal case brought against Avenatti.

In late March, charges against Avenatti were announced the same day in New York and Los Angeles.

In New York, he was charged with trying to extort up to $25 million from Nike by threatening to expose claims that the company paid the families of high school basketball players to get them to attend Nike-sponsored colleges.

In Los Angeles, he was charged with stealing millions of dollars from clients, including much of the $4 million owed to a paralyzed man, along with dodging taxes, defrauding banks and lying during bankruptcy proceedings. When the charges were enhanced last month, federal authorities seized a private jet Avenatti co-owned.

Avenatti has repeatedly asserted he is not guilty.

If convicted, he faces a potentially long prison sentence because the charges carry maximums stretching to hundreds of years in prison.