A New York jury convicted Michael Avenatti on Friday of stealing nearly $300,000 from his former client, porn actress Stormy Daniels.
The verdict against Avenatti is the second conviction reached against the disgraced attorney in the Manahattan court. Two years earlier, Avenatti was convicted of attempting to extort the athletic retailer Nike of $25 million.
Prosecutors said that Avenatti helped negotiate an $800,000 book advance for Daniels, then instructed the porn star’s literary agent to wire the first two installments of the advance to an account Avenatti controlled. Avenatti took the payments, which totaled just under $300,000, without Daniels knowledge, according to CNN.
Avenatti rose to fame and became a symbol of resistance to former President Donald Trump after the twice-convicted criminal lawyer began representing Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, in legal battles against Trump.
Daniels signed a book deal in 2018 with St. Martin’s Press for a memoir including details of an affair she allegedly had with Trump years earlier, according to The New York Post. News of the book broke after it was revealed that she accepted $130,000 from Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen to stay quiet about her past with the president. The issue kicked off a series of lawsuits between Daniels and Trump, driving Avenatti into the limelight with frequent guest appearances on news stations such as CNN and MSNBC.
Daniels and Avenatti later had a falling out after the x-rated actress accused her attorney of stealing her book advance money. Avenatti represented himself at the trial in New York. The jury went into deliberations on Wednesday before coming to a verdict Friday afternoon.
The verdict came a day after the jury had requested help from the judge in the case over one jury member apparently refusing to look at the evidence and operating “on a feeling” instead, according to a note from the jury.
“We have one juror who is refusing to look at evidence and is acting on a feeling. We need assistance on moving forward. She does not believe she needs to prove her side using evidence and refuses to show us how she has come to her conclusion,” a jury note addressed to the judge said, according to CNN.
“Please help us move forward not going on any evidence, all emotions and does not understand this job of a jury,” the note added.
Avenatti moved for a mistrial over a deadlocked jury after the note was received. The judge rejected Avenatti’s request.
In July 2021, Avenatti was sentenced to 30 months in jail after he was convicted on three counts of attempting to extort Nike.
“Mr. Avenatti’s conduct was outrageous. He hijacked his client’s claims, and he used those claims to further his own agenda — which was to extort millions of dollars from Nike to enrich himself,” Judge Paul Gardephe said at the sentencing hearing. “Mr. Avenatti had become drunk on the power of his platform, or what he perceived the power of his platform to be. He had become someone who operated as if the laws and rules that apply to everyone else didn’t apply to him.”
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