Donald Trump

Michael Avenatti Found Guilty in Fraud Trial Over Stormy Daniels Book Money

Jane Rosenberg | Reuters
  • A New York jury convicted disgraced celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti of swindling his former client, porn star Stormy Daniels out of money she was owed for a book.
  • The guilty verdict is the second conviction for Avenatti in Manhattan federal court. He was previously convicted at a separate trial of an extortion scheme against athletic apparel giant Nike.
  • Avenatti before his downfall had been a leading critic of former President Donald Trump.
  • Daniels has claimed that she had a one-time sexual tryst with Trump years ago. Trump has denied her allegations, but his former lawyer Michael Cohen has said he paid Daniels hush money before the 2016 presidential election to keep her quiet about her claims.

A New York jury on Friday convicted disgraced celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti of swindling his former client, porn star Stormy Daniels, out of nearly $300,000 that she was owed for a book deal she landed after going public about an alleged affair with former President Donald Trump.

The guilty verdict on charges of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft at Avenatti's trial in Manhattan federal court is his second criminal conviction in that court.

Avenatti, 50, was convicted at a separate trial there two years ago this month of an extortion scheme against athletic apparel giant Nike.

Avenatti also faces re-trial in a third federal criminal case that ended in a mistrial last August. In that case, which is being prosecuted in California, he is accused of stealing almost $10 million from multiple clients.

He is scheduled to be sentenced May 24 in the Daniels fraud case. The trio of criminal prosecutions and lack of income has left him effectively broke.

Avenatti represented himself during the trial, where he had claimed he was owed the money he took from Daniels' $800,000 advance for her 2018 book, "Full Disclosure."

Daniels testified he was not entitled to any of that money, and prosecutors presented evidence that he forged her signature on a document that led to her literary agent sending book funds to an account that he controlled.

Daniels told NBC News on Friday, "I am ecstatic. A win is always great, and I'm aware I won't ever get my money back and worried that if it had gone the other way it would set a very scary precedent for people in the adult film industry."

She also said that she was "grateful to the jurors that set aside prejudged notions about me or my work and the things I have done and they put that aside and looked at the evidence."

"It's never OK to steal money from a client, and he forged my signature," Daniels said. "He doesn't have any money. What am I going to do?"

Avenatti before his downfall had been a leading critic of Trump.

Daniels has claimed that she had a one-time sexual tryst with Trump years ago. Avenatti represented Daniels in connection with her claims and a related criminal probe of Trump's then-personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen.

Trump has denied her allegations. But Cohen has said he paid Daniels a total of $130,000 in hush money before the 2016 presidential election to keep her quiet about her claims.

Cohen later pleaded guilty to a campaign finance crime related to that payoff, as well to other crimes, and served time in prison.

Avenatti has yet to begin serving a 30-month prison sentence for his effort to shake down Nike out of up to $25 million.

He is out on bond while appealing his conviction in that case.

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