Federal prosecutors plan to drop several outstanding charges against fallen-from-grace celebrity attorney Michael Avenatti, according to a Tuesday continuance request filed in a Santa Ana, California court.
The government last filed for a continuance on June 15, 2022 — seeking additional time for trial to begin on dozens of fraud- and embezzlement-related charges that were originally filed in 2019.
The very next day, Avenatti pleaded guilty to five of those charges — including four wire fraud counts related to the embezzlement of client funds and one count of attempting to obstruct the IRS from collecting some $5 million worth of payroll taxes for a coffee shop he owned.
The day after that, June 17, 2022, the defendant filed a motion urging the court to reject the government’s continuance request.
In their Tuesday filing, prosecutors took issue with Avenatti’s contention that a further continuance should be disallowed under the Speedy Trial Act – but the dispute is all-but academic at this point.
“The sentencing guidelines and the law pertaining to relevant conduct and the law addressing restitution for harms caused by scheme offenses, such as the wire fraud offenses to which defendant has pleaded guilty, will allow the Court to impose a sentence on Counts 5, 8-10 and 19 that addresses the full scope of defendant’s criminal conduct,” the government’s motion says. “Such a sentence would obviate the need for a trial on the remaining counts.”
In other words, prosecutors will already be able to obtain the highest possible prison sentence under federal guidelines based on the five counts the defendant already pleaded guilty to — rendering the remaining 31 charges against him largely superfluous when viewed through the lens of punishment.
“Accordingly, the government expects to move to dismiss the remaining counts of the Indictment after sentence is imposed,” the court document continues. “In the interim, however, the government requests that the Court grant the government’s ex parte application to continue the trial on Counts 11-18 and 20-36 to February 21, 2023, and enter excludable time findings to support the continuance.”
Still, the government will likely ask the court to consider the entirety of the allegations against Avenatti when considering his sentence. He faces a theoretical statutory maximum 83 years in prison. The ultimate sentence will almost certainly be decidedly less than that.
The defendant, of course, will make his own case before the California judge. His guilty pleas were made in an “open” fashion, indicating that he had not reached a formal plea agreement with the government.
“We look forward to presenting all of the positive factors about Mr. Avenatti at sentencing,” the defendant’s advisory counsel H. Dean Steward told Law&Crime. “His long legal journey is nearing the end.”
The 51-year-old attorney is currently on hiatus from practicing law in the Golden State after being convicted in New York of defrauding the client that made him a household name, Stormy Daniels, by stealing nearly $300,000 in book proceeds from her. He’s also serving an unrelated stretch of time in federal court for attempting to extort athletics apparel company Nike to the tune of $25 million.
Avenatti was sentenced to four years in prison in the Daniels case – a sentence that was handed out earlier this month. At the time, he was already serving a two-and-a-half year sentence in the Nike case.
The government’s filing is available below:
[image via JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images]
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