Appeals court upholds Avenatti conviction in Stormy Daniels case

 March 11, 2024

An appeals court delivered a blow to Michael Avenatti on Wednesday, upholding his conviction for stealing book proceeds from Stormy Daniels, the adult film star he famously represented in her legal battle against former President Trump.

The three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower-court ruling from 2022, which had sentenced Avenatti to four years in prison and ordered him to pay $148,000 in restitution.

The decision

Avenatti was mandated to forfeit nearly $297,000, the amount prosecutors alleged he illicitly obtained from Daniels. Avenatti was already serving time for a separate fraud conviction when this sentence was handed down.

The charges stemmed from Avenatti's handling of Daniels' book deal, which promised an $800,000 advance. Prosecutors contended that Avenatti misappropriated approximately $300,000 of the advance intended for Daniels' book, "Full Disclosure," published in 2018.

Despite his prominence in the media, Avenatti's law firm was reportedly facing financial difficulties at the time.

The details

During Avenatti's sentencing, U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman underscored the significance of the sentence as a deterrent against lawyers exploiting their clients for personal gain.

In its ruling, the appellate panel rejected several arguments put forth by Avenatti. They dismissed his claim that the jury instructions were confusing or prejudicial, asserting that any alleged errors were immaterial given the overwhelming evidence against Avenatti.

The panel also refuted Avenatti's contention that the trial court exerted undue pressure on the jury to reach a verdict.

Appeal denied

They maintained that the district court's actions were neither coercive nor improper, but rather within the bounds of procedural norms.

Furthermore, the panel rebuffed Avenatti's argument concerning the sequence of his restitution payments. They pointed out that his legal team failed to raise objections at the time of the change, and even if they had, the argument lacked merit.

Finally, the panel dismissed Avenatti's reliance on a recent Supreme Court decision related to identity theft, contending that his case differed significantly from the precedent cited.

They emphasized that identity theft was integral to Avenatti's criminal conduct, distinguishing it from the circumstances of the Supreme Court ruling.

The appeals court's ruling dealt a significant blow to Avenatti's legal defense, upholding his conviction and reinforcing the consequences of his actions following the high-profile case determined to bring justice for Daniels as she fought back against the former lawyer in the case.

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