Disgraced lawyer and former Democratic presidential hopeful, Michael Avenatti, will now represent himself at his upcoming criminal trial in federal court.
Avenatti’s decision followed what he described as a “breakdown” in his relationship with his attorneys.
This will also mean that Avenatti will be able to directly question his former client, Stormy Daniels, when she takes the stand.
Avenatti told Judge Jesse Furman that there was a “breakdown in the relationship between me and my counsel that goes to the heart of my ability to mount a defense,” asking to be allowed to invoke his constitutional right to defend himself under the Sixth Amendment.
“I make this decision knowingly and voluntarily,” Avenatti said.
“It’s my arena. It’s where I’m most at home. And I think it gives me the best chance at winning,” Avenatti continued. “I am completely innocent.”
Avenatti was arrested in 2019 for allegedly embezzling nearly $300,000 in book proceeds from Daniels.
“This is a case about a lawyer who stole from his client. A lawyer who lied to cover up the scheme,” assistant attorney Andrew Rohrbach said, noting that Avenatti forged Daniels’s signature in a letter to an agent as part of the crime, according to The Guardian.
“The defendant stole almost $300,000 from the person he was supposed to be looking out for,” he added.
In July 2021, Avenatti was also sentenced to 30 months in prison for attempting to extort Nike of up to $25 million.
“Mr. Avenatti’s conduct was outrageous. He hijacked his client’s claims, and he used those claims to further his own agenda — which was to extort millions of dollars from Nike to enrich himself,” Judge Paul Gardephe said at the time. “Mr. Avenatti had become drunk on the power of his platform, or what he perceived the power of his platform to be. He had become someone who operated as if the laws and rules that apply to everyone else didn’t apply to him.”
“The defendant, a prominent attorney and media personality with a large public following, betrayed his client and sought to enrich himself by weaponizing his public profile in an attempt to extort a publicly-traded company out of tens of millions of dollars. This was an egregious abuse of trust, and it warrants real and serious punishment,” the prosecutorial team — led by Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman — argued.
Avenatti’s defense team asked the judge for leniency, arguing that he had faced enough public humiliation already.
“Avenatti’s epic fall and public shaming has played out in front of the entire world. The Court may take judicial notice of this fact, as Avenatti’s cataclysmic fall has been well-documented. He is openly mocked by the former President of the United States and his preferred media outlets, to the glee of millions of the former President’s followers and supporters,” the attorneys wrote.
“He cannot go anywhere in public without inducing and subjecting himself to vitriolic comments and abuse. These circumstances alone would deter anyone in Avenatti’s shoes from engaging in similar conduct,” they said.
A 2019 study by NewsBusters found that Avenatti appeared on major television networks 254 times in the year preceding his arrest for domestic abuse charges, with CNN alone representing 48% of the appearances.
Ian Haworth is an Editor and Writer for The Daily Wire. Follow him on Twitter at @ighaworth.
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