Resistance hero Michael Avenatti goes on trial for stealing $300,000 from Stormy Daniels

(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

In his recent profile in Politico, Michael Avenatti was portrayed living in a friend’s house a few blocks from Venice Beach. He said he had to push his former life of race cars, television hits and speculation he could run for president out of his mind to keep himself sane. “It’s been such a gargantuan fall,” he said.

Today, Avenatti is in court for another major trial, this time he’s accused by former client Stormy Daniels of stealing money she earned in a book contract.

“This case is about a lawyer who stole from his client, a lawyer who lied to cover up for the scheme. That lawyer is the defendant, Michael Avenatti,” Assistant US Attorney Andrew Rohrbach told jurors in his opening statement…

The book’s publisher agreed to pay Daniels $800,000 in four installments for the book – but two of those payments were swiped by Avenatti, Rohrbach alleged.

The embattled lawyer forged Daniels’ signature on a letter to her literary agent, requesting the advance payments be deposited in a bank account he controlled, Rohrbach added.

The fake letter worked, the feds allege, and two of the payments – totaling nearly $300,000 – were deposited into the account and spent by Avenatti.

According to the prosecution, Daniels asked about her money and Avenatti lied and claimed the publisher was slow in paying her. Avenatti quickly spent her money to meet payroll at his law firm but also partly on his own expenses including the lease payment on his Ferrari. Eventually, she spoke directly with the publisher and figured out what was happening:

Finally, early in 2019, Ms. Daniels communicated with a representative of the publisher and received from her agent a copy of the phony letter that Mr. Avenatti is accused of sending. Three months later he was indicted.

But Avenatti continues to maintain he is “completely innocent” and his defense attorney offered a very different story in his opening statement.

A few minutes later, a defense lawyer, Andrew Dalack, described Ms. Daniels as a “disgruntled former client” in a “fee dispute” with Mr. Avenatti. He added that Mr. Avenatti had lent Ms. Daniels hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own money for security arrangements, to buy a car and to obtain possible “blackmail material” and was also party to an agreement that he was entitled to a “reasonable percentage to be agreed upon” of her book proceeds.

“Mr. Avenatti didn’t steal Stormy Daniels’s money,” Mr. Dalack said. “He didn’t defraud her.”

Daniels once praised Avenatti in an interview with NY Times magazine saying, “Every time I watch him work, I think, this is what it must have been like to see the Sistine Chapel being painted. But instead of paint, Michael uses the tears of his enemies.” Now she’s going to take the stand and call him a liar and a thief. Similarly, Avenatti may also take the stand to defend himself by calling Daniels a liar. We’ll have to wait a few more weeks to see who the jury believes.

Finally, there was a little side drama today. Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen was in attendance for opening arguments and as he approached the courthouse this morning, Avenatti went into a rant about Cohen. “Guy’s an absolute dirt bag. Dumber than a box of rocks,” Avenatti said.

It escalated from there:

As Avenatti entered the court room he spotted Cohen and several times said to him: “Do you have those Donald Trump knee pads?”

Asked for his reaction, Cohen told the Guardian: “I don’t think about him. He’s as pathetic today as I remember him years ago.” Cohen claimed that he has been a friend of Daniels since Avenatti began representing her in 2018, and that she has appeared as a guest on his podcast.

Stormy Daniels has recently been busy with her new venture, the “Spooky Babes show” in which she stars as a sexy paranormal investigator. And no, I’m not making that up.