Avenatti decides not to testify at trial vs. Stormy Daniels

Posted at 3:06 PM, February 1, 2022 and last updated 6:57 PM, August 10, 2023

By TOM HAYS Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Michael Avenatti said Tuesday that he will not testify at his trial on charges that he cheated porn actor Stormy Daniels out of nearly $300,000 in book proceeds.

Avenatti announced his decision in Manhattan federal court after telling Judge Jesse M. Furman he had no witnesses in court who were ready to testify.

Michael Avenatti , foreground center, discusses his ongoing defense case while responding to Judge Jesse Furman’s questions, Monday, Jan. 31, 2022 in Manhattan federal court. The government has rested its case at a trial where jurors heard allegations that Avenatti stole nearly $300,000 in book proceeds from porn star Stormy Daniels. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)

The California lawyer, who became well known representing Daniels in 2018 in her legal fights against then-President Donald Trump, said he chose not to testify because prosecutors had not proven their case.

Prosecutors say Avenatti falsely claimed to Daniels for months in 2018 and early 2019 that a publisher was not making timely payments from the $800,000 advance for her autobiography, “Full Disclosure.” They say he was spending the payouts on payroll for his financially strapped law practice and on personal expenses for himself.

Daniels sued Trump because she wanted to go public with her claims that she had a tryst with him a decade before he ran for president. Avenatti represented her in those lawsuits as she sought to alter the terms of a $130,000 hush payment made shortly before the 2016 presidential election.

Avenatti, 50, has maintained his innocence. Prior to opening statements last week, his lawyers had said he was likely to testify.

FILE- Adult film actress Stormy Daniels, accompanied by her attorney, Michael Avenatti, right, talks to the media as she leaves federal court, on April 16, 2018 in New York. Avenatti, the once high-profile California attorney who regularly taunted then-President Donald Trump during frequent television appearances, was introduced Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022, to prospective jurors who will decide whether he cheated porn star Stormy Daniels out of book-deal proceeds. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

But Avenatti chose to represent himself during cross examination of his former office manager on the second day of the presentation of evidence and has been his own lawyer ever since, including when Daniels testified for two days last week.

Closing arguments were scheduled for Wednesday.

Avenatti has yet to begin serving a 2 1/2 year prison sentence after his conviction for trying to extort up to $25 million from sportswear giant Nike. He also awaits retrial in a California case on charges that he cheated clients of millions of dollars. He represented himself in the case last year which ended in a mistrial.