Lawyer Avenatti arrested for new alleged crimes while on bail
LOS ANGELES — Michael Avenatti, the brash former attorney for the porn actress Stormy Daniels, was arrested for allegedly violating bail by committing numerous financial crimes to conceal assets from creditors while living a lavish lifestyle, U.S. prosecutors alleged in a court document released Wednesday.
Avenatti was arrested by IRS agents at a state bar court hearing on Tuesday, where he was facing suspension of his license to practice for allegedly stealing from a client, said Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the Los Angeles U.S. Attorney’s office.
“Completely innocent,” Avenatti said as he was being led out of the courthouse, according to the Daily Beast, which reported that the arrest occurred during a break in testimony.
The arrest threatens to disrupt Avenatti’s trial scheduled next week in Manhattan on charges he tried to extort $25 million from Nike, a New York federal judge said during a hearing Wednesday.
“The arrest of Mr. Avenatti this close to the trial has essentially thrown the trial into chaos,” U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe said.
Court documents supporting Tuesday’s arrest lay out several schemes orchestrated by Avenatti to hide his assets from an ex-wife, a former legal partner and a client, while living in an $11,000-a-month apartment, being chauffeured in a Mercedes and staying in luxury resorts. He pocketed $1 million in legal fees during the period and then shifted the money around to conceal the payment despite mounting debts that surpassed $10 million.
The arrest of Avenatti marks a new low for the attorney who was flying high a year ago while in the spotlight championing Daniels case against President Trump.
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, went to court to tear up a $130,000 hush money deal she said she made to cover up an affair with Trump before he was president.
Although Trump has denied the affair, he chose not to challenge that effort, so she effectively won what she was seeking. But the president won his legal fees in successfully challenging a related defamation case that Daniels brought against him. Daniels has since hired a new lawyer to take the case
Avenatti had positioned himself as a Trump troll of sorts, attacking the president on Twitter frequently, and even flirted with running for president at one point.
Brian Melley is an Associated Press writer.