CNN Darling Michael Avenatti Convicted Of Stealing Stormy Daniels' Book Proceeds, Faces 22 Years Jail

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by Tyler Durden
Friday, Feb 04, 2022 - 08:03 PM

Update (1500ET): After seemingly stuck in deadlock, the jury in the case of CNN darling Michael Avenatti vs Stormy Daniels has reached a verdict and found the 'lawyer' guilty of stealing almost $300,000 in book-advance proceeds from the 'former' porn star.

“The defendant was a lawyer who stole from his own client. She thought he was her advocate, but he betrayed her and he told lies to try to cover it all up,” prosecutor Robert Sobelman said during closing arguments.

“He stole from her. He lied to her over and over and over again,” Sobleman added of Avenatti.

“All to steal and spend money that was not his. The defendant is guilty.”

The now twice-convicted felon now faces a maximum of 22 years in prison for his conviction on wire fraud and aggravated identity theft charges.

He must surrender by 5 p.m. PST on Monday, according to LawCrimeNews' Adam Klasfeld.

After Stormy Daniels' levied accusations against Donald Trump, Avenatti spent the next several years as an MSM darling - which put him on such a pedestal that discussion of a 2020 run became national headlines.

Byron York has chronicled Avenatti's meteoric rise, and fall, via the Washington Examiner:

ANOTHER LOOK AT MICHAEL AVENATTI AND HIS MEDIA ENABLERS. Remember Michael Avenatti? He was the lawyer who represented pornographic actress Stormy Daniels in her suit against then-President Donald Trump. But more importantly, Avenatti showed the world how some segments of the media, in particular CNN and MSNBC, could lose their heads in an anti-Trump frenzy. And for that, he should always be remembered.

Now, Avenatti is in the news because his trial has begun on charges that he stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from Daniels. And a look at the specific allegations against him shows the striking contrast between Avenatti's celebrated television appearances in 2018, when he became a Hero of the Resistance, and what he was actually doing behind the scenes.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, candidate Trump paid Daniels hush money to cover up a sexual encounter a decade earlier. By March 2018, with Trump in the White House and anti-Trump fervor rising among Democrats and many in the media, Daniels sued Trump over that hush money deal. Avenatti was her lawyer. He took a combative approach that CNN and MSNBC producers found irresistible.

Avenatti first appeared on television on March 7, 2018, the day after filing the suit. He was invited back again and again and again. Avenatti appeared a total of 256 times on TV in the months that followed, according to a count by Newsbusters. CNN loved him the most, putting him on 122 times. MSNBC was next with 108 appearances — that's 230 appearances just between the two anti-Trump networks. He made a few appearances on broadcast television — 12 on ABC, seven on CBS, five on NBC. He appeared just twice on Fox News in that period.

Avenatti became a celebrity. People around him actually began talking seriously about him running for president against Trump in 2020. In May 2018, CNN's Brian Stelter cited Avenatti's "star power" and said, "One reason I'm taking you seriously as a contender is because of your presence on cable news." Avenatti was a cable TV — specifically CNN and MSNBC — phenomenon.

The indictment tells a different story. In April 2018, a month after filing suit and the beginning of Avenatti's star turn, Daniels signed a book contract with St. Martin's Press. She would be paid an $800,000 advance in four separate payments — $250,000 upon signing the contract, $175,000 upon delivering a final manuscript, $175,000 on publication, and a final $200,000 six months later, after completion of Daniels's "publicity requirements." The contract called for the publisher to send the checks to Daniels's agent, who would take his fee and then send the payment on to Daniels.

Everything went fine for the first payment. The publisher sent $250,000 to the agent, who took 15% and then sent the rest, $212,500, to Daniels. The problem started when it came time to send the second payment.

According to the indictment, for the second payment, Daniels created a new bank account specifically for the book money. She told Avenatti she wanted future payments to go to that account. Avenatti then told the agent that Daniels's payments should go to a new account. But the account Avenatti gave the agent was not the one Daniels created. It was an account called "Avenatti & Associates — Attorney Client Trust." With Daniels unaware of what was happening, Avenatti directed that the money be sent to him, not her.

But the agent told Avenatti that he could not redirect Daniels's payments to a new account without written instructions from Daniels. So, according to the indictment, Avenatti emailed the agent "a letter that purported to be from Daniels and appeared to contain Daniels's signature, instructing the agent to send all advance payments to the Avenatti client account. Daniels neither authorized nor signed the false wire instructions, and, in fact, was not even aware of the existence of the false wire instructions."

Unaware of Avenatti's fraud, the agent sent the second payment, $148,750, to Avenatti's account. Avenatti did not tell Daniels that it had arrived. Instead, he started spending Daniels's money. According to the indictment, he spent $57,000 to cover payroll at his law firm. He spent $20,000 on "insurance, airfare, hotels, car services, restaurants and meal delivery and online retailers." He spent $12,800 to cover payroll at a coffee business he owned. He sent $1,900 to another of his clients. By Aug. 20, 2018, the indictment says, "only $625 of Daniels' second payment remained in the Avenatti client account."

By then, Daniels was wondering where her money was. Assuming that either the publisher or the agent was behind, she asked Avenatti for help in getting paid. That's when Avenatti allegedly tried to cover up what was going on. On Sept. 5, according to the indictment, Avenatti received a completely unrelated payment of $250,000. He moved $148,750 of it into Daniels's account, so she would be paid and never know that Avenatti had earlier taken and spent her paycheck from the publisher.

Then came the third payment. It was not due to be paid until Oct. 2, 2018, the book's publication date. But by September, Avenatti was desperate for money. On Sept. 13, he spoke with Daniels's agent and asked that the third payment to Daniels be made early, even though the book had not yet been published. The agent talked to the publisher, who agreed to make the early payment. So on Sept. 17, a payment of $148,750 was wired into the Avenatti account. Avenatti started spending Daniels's money immediately.

He gave $11,000 to "individuals with whom Avenatti had relationships," according to the indictment. He spent $3,900 to cover the monthly lease for his Ferrari. He spent $15,000 on "airfare, dry cleaning, hotels, restaurants and meals, and car services." He gave $1,900 to another client. He spent $56,000 to cover another payroll at his firm. He spent $12,000 on insurance premiums.

Daniels never knew that Avenatti had requested the third payment be made early. So, when publication day, Oct. 2, arrived, she sent a note to Avenatti saying, "publisher owes me a payment today." Here is what the indictment says: "Avenatti did not tell Daniels that he had already received the payment into the Avenatti client account more than two weeks earlier, but instead misleadingly and fraudulently stated, 'On it. We need to make sure we have the publicity requirement met.'"

As October went on, Daniels repeatedly asked Avenatti where the payment was, why the publisher and agent had not paid her. Avenatti never told her that he had taken the money. On Oct. 29, Daniels wrote to Avenatti, "Did you ask publisher about my payment?" Avenatti responded, "Yes, They are on it." A month went by. Still no payment to Daniels. When Daniels asked Avenatti where the money was, he responded that the publisher "was resisting making the third payment due to poor sales" of the book, according to the indictment.

On Dec. 5, 2018, Daniels had had enough. "When is the publisher going to cough up my money?" she wrote Avenatti. "Working them and threatening litigation," Avenatti responded. "They need to pay you the money as you did your part and then some." Avenatti assured Daniels that he was looking out for her interests. Of course, he had already stolen the money for himself, according to the indictment.

On Dec. 27, 2018, Daniels had an idea. She would send the publisher a certified letter demanding payment and firing her agent. Then she would post it online so that the world could see. Alarmed that his scam would be revealed, Avenatti urged Daniels not to do it. In a phone call, according to the indictment, Avenatti told Daniels she "should not send a letter and should not fire the agent because Daniels may need the agent's help in a lawsuit against the publisher to recover the third payment." Which, of course, Avenatti had already stolen.

That same month, December, Daniels's manager, acting on her behalf, sent an email to the publisher and agent stating that she had not received the third payment. The publisher and agent were confused; they thought perhaps Daniels was asking to receive the fourth payment early. The agent called Avenatti, and Avenatti said to relax, that he was dealing with Daniels and that the agent and publisher should not respond to the inquiry from Daniels's manager. So the publisher and agent stayed out of it and did not respond. Meanwhile, Avenatti continued to tell Daniels that the publisher was "resisting" making the third payment but that he, Avenatti, was fighting for her.

The hustle fell apart in February 2019. A frustrated Daniels got in touch with a representative of the publisher, who told Daniels that the third payment had been made long ago. Then Daniels got in touch with the agent, who showed her documentation that the third payment had indeed been made on Sept. 17, 2018. The agent also showed Daniels Avenatti's wiring instructions, complete with Daniels's forged signature, directing that the money be sent to the Avenatti account. The instructions, according to the indictment, "were fraudulently created by Avenatti in order to carry out his scheme to steal funds rightfully owed to his client."

Thus began this particular criminal case against Avenatti. And at some point, presumably, CNN's Brian Stelter stopped taking Avenatti seriously as a contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

There were many other developments that revealed Avenatti's true character. There was the extortion scheme against Nike, for which Avenatti was found guilty and sentenced to 30 months in prison. There is an upcoming trial on charges that Avenatti also stole from other clients. Given it all, there is simply no doubt what kind of man Michael Avenatti is.

But as the current trial progresses, keep in mind those journalists who gave Avenatti the world — millions of dollars in free publicity — because they fell into a swoon over his Hero of the Resistance act. They abandoned their standards, and loved Avenatti, because they were so consumed by resisting Trump. And they are as much a part of the story as Avenatti himself.

For a deeper dive into many of the topics covered in the Daily Memo, please listen to my podcast, The Byron York Show — available on the Ricochet Audio Network and everywhere else podcasts can be found. You can use this link to subscribe.

Avenatti truly remains the grift that keeps on giving. #Basta!

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As we detailed earlier, the jury in former left-wing posterboy-turned felon Michael Avenatti's criminal trial is deadlocked.

On Thursday this week it was reported that a jury wasn't able to immediately decide whether or not Avenatti defrauded his client, porn star Stormy Daniels. Avenatti represented Daniels during a period in which she "blew the whistle" and sued President Donald Trump. 

After just four hours of deliberations, the jury concluded that it wouldn't be able to agree on Avenatti's innocence or guilt, Reuters reported this week. 

U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman told the jurors to continue deliberating the charge against Avenatti, whether or not he is guilty of embezzling nearly $300,000 of Daniels' book advance. 

A conviction of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft could see Avenatti face up to 20 years in prison. Avenatti is representing himself in the case and has pleaded not guilty to both counts. He called the money in question a "disagreement over legal fees that has no place in court," according to the report. 

He has argued that he had a "good faith" belief that his contract entitled him to money from Daniels' book. Jurors requested a definition of "good faith" from the judge this week. 

Avenatti should be acquitted if he had an "honest belief that he was entitled to take money or property," the judge told the jury.