- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 11, 2020

Michael Avenatti, a convicted lawyer who gained fame taking on President Trump, was granted a reprieve Friday by a federal court judge who approved his temporary release from jail.

U.S. District Judge James V. Selna agreed to free Avenatti for 90 days after a lawyer for the disgraced celebrity attorney argued he was at high risk of contracting the novel coronavirus.

Avenatti, 49, has been held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan since January after he was accused of committing financial crimes while free on bail awaiting trial on charges brought against him in three separate federal criminal cases.

He was convicted the following month in one of those trials of attempting to extort sportswear giant Nike and accordingly faces a maximum sentence of more than 40 years in prison. The other two trials have not yet taken place.

A lawyer for Avenatti reasoned last month that he should be released from behind bars while awaiting sentencing by arguing that his client is at a high risk of contracting COVID-19, the highly contagious and potentially deadly respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Judge Selna, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, initially denied that request by noting that no cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed at the jail housing Avenatti.

He later agreed to reconsider the request after several of Avenatti’s fellow inmates at MCC tested positive for COVID-19, however.

Under the judge’s order issued late Friday, Avenatti will be freed for 90 days on a $1 million bond. He will first be quarantined for 14 days to ensure he has not contracted COVID-19 before being confined to the southern California residence of a third-party custodian, Jay Manheimer, where his location will be monitored by a bracelet, according to the judge’s order.

Avenatti is not allowed to use any digital devices that allow internet access, and he must surrender himself to U.S. Marshals once the 90 days are over, the judge ruled.

Before landing behind bars, Avenatti gained fame representing Stephanie Clifford, an adult film actress known professionally as Stormy Daniels who sued Mr. Trump over a non-disclosure agreement she signed prior to him becoming president.

Ms. Clifford, 41, alleged that Mr. Trump’s former personal attorney paid her $130,000 to keep quiet about an extramarital affair she has claimed to have had with Mr. Trump in 2006.

Avenatti was later charged last May in Manhattan with allegedly defrauding Ms. Clifford out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. He has also separately been charged in Los Angeles on dozens of counts including fraud, perjury and tax dodging, among others.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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