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Disgraced US lawyer Avenatti jailed 14yrs

Michael Avenatti, the US lawyer who represented porn star Stormy Daniels in her battle with Donald Trump, has been jailed 14 years for fraud.

December 6, 2022
By Amy Taxin
6 December 2022

Incarcerated lawyer Michael Avenatti has been sentenced in Southern California to 14 years in prison after admitting he cheated four of his clients out of millions of dollars.

The sentence should run consecutively to the five-year prison term he is currently serving for separate convictions in New York, US District Judge James V. Selna said on Monday during a hearing in Santa Ana, California.

Avenatti pleaded guilty earlier this year to four counts of wire fraud and a tax-related charge without reaching a plea deal with federal prosecutors, saying he wanted to be accountable and spare his family further embarrassment. He was accused of negotiating and collecting settlement payments on behalf of his clients and instead funnelling the money to accounts he controlled.

He was ordered to pay $US7 million ($A10 million) in restitution.

Before sentencing, Avenatti apologised to the four victims in the case, three of whom were in the courtroom.

“I am deeply remorseful and contrite,” he said. 

“There is no doubt that all of them deserve much better, and I hope that some day they will accept my apologies and find it in their heart to forgive me.”

Prosecutor Brett Sagel told the court that Avenatti’s criminal conduct “arose from calculated choices and egregious violations of the trust” his clients placed in him.

“He didn’t turn to his criminal actions by desperation, by need, by the inability to do anything else,” Sagel said. 

“Despite the significant advantages that this defendant had – a first-rate education, a thriving legal career – he chose to commit the deplorable acts in this case time and time again.”

The government dropped all other remaining charges against Avenatti stemming from a 36-count indictment.

Avenatti is currently serving time in a Southern California prison on two separate cases. He was convicted of stealing book proceeds from Stormy Daniels, the porn actress who catapulted him to fame as he represented her during her legal battles with then-president Donald Trump, and of trying to extort Nike if the shoemaker didn’t pay him up to $US25 million ($A37 million).

Avenatti represented Daniels in her lawsuit to break a confidentiality agreement with Trump to stay quiet about an affair she said they had and became one of Trump’s leading adversaries, attacking him on cable news programs and Twitter.

Prosecutors had asked for Avenatti to be sentenced to an additional 17.5 years in prison on top of the five he is already serving.

Avenatti, who represented himself in the proceedings, asked that he be given a sentence of no more than six years that would run concurrently to the time he is serving.

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