Anti-Trump lawyer Michael Avenatti’s feud with Stormy Daniels goes to trial: What happened?

·3 min read

Porn star Stormy Daniels is set to testify in the trial against her former lawyer Michael Avenatti who represented her in lawsuits against Donald Trump.

The trial that’s scheduled to begin on Monday will determine if Avenatti took $300,000 in book profits from Ms Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford.

She will testify in Manhattan federal court as prosecutors will attempt to convict Avenatti of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in his third criminal trial in two years. The lawyer stands accused of keeping money he received from her publisher meant for Ms Daniels.

Opening statements will begin on Monday, with Ms Daniels possibly taking the stand on Tuesday or further down the line.

The 50-year-old Avenatti has pleaded not guilty to the charges. He was convicted of trying to extort $25m from sportswear brand Nike in early 2020, threatening to ruin the company reputation unless his requirements were satisfied. He was sentenced to two and a half years in prison, a penalty he has yet to serve.

A retrial is expected in California after a mistrial was declared in a case where Avenatti stands accused of swindling clients in the state.

The relationship between Ms Daniels and Avenatti seemed to be solid in the spring of 2018 when they appeared outside a Manhattan court hearing concerning raids at the home and office of Michael Cohen, Mr Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer.

Cohen had been part of the scheme to pay Ms Daniels $130,000 11 days before the 2016 presidential election to stop her from revealing an affair she said she had had with Mr Trump.

Cohen pleaded guilty, serving one year in prison and two years of home confinement. Ms Daniels sued Mr Trump to attempt to regain the right to speak publically about what claims was a short-lived affair around ten years previously. Mr Trump has denied that the sexual encounter took place, but the lawsuits led to a judge in Los Angeles ordering him to pay Ms Daniels $44,100 in legal costs.

Avenatti started considering running for president after becoming popular as an outspoken critic of Mr Trump on cable news.

Ms Daniels later signed a book deal, with Avenatti writing the forward to the end result Full Disclosure, which was published in the autumn of 2018. In the book, Ms Daniels wrote about the alleged sexual encounter with Mr Trump and the communications that followed.

Avenatti was charged in three criminal cases about half a year after the book was released. One of the cases was the alleged fraud against Ms Daniels.

Following his arrest, Avenatti tweeted that he had never mishandled any of Ms Daniels’ money. He added that his work for her was mostly unpaid, but that they had an agreement that he would receive a percentage from any proceeds from the book. Avenatti said he looked “forward to a jury hearing the evidence”.

The Associated Press contributed to this report