Avenatti receives 4 years for stealing from Stormy Daniels in book deal

A federal judge said Avenatti will serve another 2 1/2 years in prison, on top of his current sentence.


SETH WENIG/Associated Press

In this 2018 photo, Stormy Daniels and Michael Avenatti turn from microphones as they leave federal court in New York. Avenatti was recently sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for stealing book proceeds from her memoir which includes graphic accounts of her relationship with former President Donald Trump.


NEW YORK — Michael Avenatti was sentenced Thursday to four years in prison for stealing book proceeds from Stormy Daniels, the porn actor who catapulted him to fame when he represented her in courtrooms and on cable news programs during her legal battles with then-President Donald Trump.

The California lawyer learned his fate in Manhattan federal court, where Judge Jesse M. Furman said Avenatti will spend another 2 1/2 years in prison on top of his current prison sentence. Avenatti is serving a 2 1/2-year sentence for trying to extort Nike. He was convicted in 2020 of threatening to ruin the shoemaker’s reputation if it did not pay him up to $25 million.

Avenatti represented himself at a trial earlier this year. The lawyer cross-examined Daniels for hours about their experiences in early 2018, when she signed a book deal that provided an $800,000 payout. Prosecutors said he illegally pocketed about $300,000 of her advance for “Full Disclosure,” published in fall 2018.

Avenatti was representing Daniels in lawsuits at the time meant to free her from a $130,000 hush payment she received shortly before the 2016 presidential election in exchange for her silence about a tryst she said she had with Trump a decade earlier. Trump denied it.

The defendant certainly had every right to defend himself at trial. But he is not entitled to a benefit for showing remorse…

— Prosecutors

The judge said Avenatti’s crime against Daniels was made “out of desperation” when his law firm was struggling. He called Avenatti’s behavior “craven and egregious” and blamed it on “blind ambition.”

Avanatti was also convicted of aggravated identity theft and wire fraud in the Daniels case. Furman said he believed the four-year sentence “will send a message to lawyers” — if they go astray, they will lose their profession and their liberty.

Avenatti, wearing a drab beige prison uniform and shackled at the feet, choked up several times as he delivered a lengthy statement before the sentence was announced. He said he “disappointed scores of people and failed in a cataclysmic way.”

Daniels was not in court. Attorney Clark Brewster spoke on her behalf, saying it was “truly shocking” that Avenatti tried to portray himself as a champion of his clients during his statement.

He also faces a retrial in California on charges that he cheated clients and others out of millions of dollars.

Michael Avenatti makes a statement to the press as he leaves a federal court in 2019. Judge Jesse M. Furman, after sentencing Avenatti on Thursday for stealing from Stormy Daniels, said he believed the sentence would “send a message to lawyers” if they go astray. (RICHARD DREW/Associated Press)

Avenatti’s lawyers cited an apology letter Avenatti recently wrote to Daniels in a presentence submission, in which he said: “I am truly sorry.”

Prosecutors urged the judge to give Avenatti “substantial” additional time in prison for a wire fraud conviction and criticized his apology letter, saying the 51-year-old failed to apologize for his actual crime.

During the “extremely lengthy” cross-examination with Daniels, Avenatti “berated his victim for lewd language and being a difficult client, questioned her invasively about marital and familial difficulties, and sought to cast her as crazy, much as he did during the course of his fraud to prevent her own agent and publisher from responding to her pleas for help,” the prosecutors wrote.

“The defendant certainly had every right to defend himself at trial. But he is not entitled to a benefit for showing remorse, having done so only when convenient and only after seeking to humiliate his victim at a public trial, and denigrating and insulting her for months to her agent and publisher while holding himself out as taking up her cause against the powerful who might have taken advantage of her.”


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