- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 24, 2021

A judge declared a mistrial Tuesday in the prosecution of Michael Avenatti, ruling that the Justice Department didn’t turn over all the financial records it should have.

Judge James Selna said it appeared to be an oversight and not an intentional withholding, according to accounts from the courthouse. But the judge shut down proceedings and said a new trial will commence in October.

“Shortcomings there may have been, but I find no misconduct, intentional or otherwise, on the part of the taint team,” Judge Selna said, according to Meghann Cuniff, a journalist who has live-tweeted the trial.

Avenatti is on trial in a federal court in California for charges of wire fraud. Prosecutors said the disgraced lawyer pilfered money intended for clients and funneled the cash into his own enterprises, trying to keep them afloat.

He already was convicted of extortion in a separate case in federal court in New York. In that case, he threatened to go public with what he said was embarrassing information about contacts that Nike, the sports clothing and equipment company, had with college basketball prospects. He demanded millions of dollars to keep quiet.

He was sentenced to 2.5 years in that case.

He also faces another case in New York over accusations he bilked money from Stormy Daniels, the porn-star client who said she had a sexual relationship with former President Donald Trump before he was in the White House.

Avenatti‘s representation of Ms. Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, made him a hero to the left, earning him hundreds of television appearances on liberal-leaning cable news networks. He also flirted with a run for president on the Democratic ticket in 2020 before the criminal indictments came out.

The California case is the most serious of the three, with charges of wire, tax and bank fraud. Prosecutors say he siphoned millions of dollars from settlements he won for clients.

The current trial, already 25 days old, was on the wire fraud charges.

Avenatti is arguing to jurors that case comes down to how he calculated what he was owed from the settlements he won for clients.

He said the government possessed financial documents it seized from his law firm, Eagan Avenatti LLP, that were never turned over to the defense. He argued that was a violation of fair trial procedure regarding exculpatory evidence, and Judge Selna agreed.

Avenatti said he believed the files could help him contradict some of the government’s witnesses’ testimony. 

Prosecutors said they believed they had turned over all the information in their possession and argued Avenatti had access to the servers anyway.

Avenatti, who is representing himself, has been exceptionally aggressive in his arguments of unfair treatment by prosecutors.


• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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