Prosecutors have filed new charges against embattled former lawyer Michael Avenatti Wednesday. The charges stem from Avenatti’s alleged misappropriation of funds that were supposed to be paid to Stormy Daniels during his time representing the adult film actress in her legal battles with President Donald Trump and his former fixer Michael Cohen. The charges were filed in the Southern District of New York (SDNY) where Avenatti already stands accused of extortion in a case involving the athletic brand Nike.
Avenatti asserted his innocence just prior to Wednesday’s indictment, tweeting: “No monies relating to Daniels were ever misappropriated or mishandled. She received millions of dollars worth of legal services and we spent huge sums in expenses. She directly paid only $100.00 for all that she received. I look forward to a jury hearing the evidence”
Geoffrey S. Berman, the United states Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the FBI, announced the indictment Wednesday afternoon, charging Avenatti with fraud and aggravated identity theft charges as well as charges of extortion.
According to the statement, prosecutors allege that Avenatti “used misrepresentations and a fraudulent document purporting to bear his clients name and signature to convince his client’s literary agent to divert money owed to Avenatti’s client to a personal account controlled by Avenatti. Avenatti then spent the money principally for his own personal and business purposes. The fraud and aggravated identity theft case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts of the Southern District of New York.
Additionally, Avenatti was indicted on extortion charges relating to his alleged attempt to extract more than $29 million in payments from Nike by “threatening to use his ability to garner publicity to inflict substantial financial and reputational harm on the company if his demands were not met. The extortion case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe of the Southern District of New York.
Avenatti tweeted Tuesday night that he knew the indictment was inevitable, tweeting: “I expect an indictment to issue from SDNY in the next 48 hrs charging me in connection with my arrest in March,” and adding, “I intend on fighting these bogus/legally baseless allegations, and will plead not guilty to ALL CHARGES. I look forward to the trial where I can begin to clear my name.”
Follow his indictment, Avenatti tweeted: “I look forward to a jury hearing all of the evidence and passing judgment on my conduct. At no time was any money misappropriated or mishandled. I will be fully exonerated once the relevant emails, contracts, text messages, and documents are presented.”
Late Wednesday afternoon he added this:
[image via TIME screengrab]
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