By LARRY NEUMEISTER Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — Michael Avenatti’s attorney cited the coronavirus threat Wednesday and an upcoming trial as he asked a judge to delay a court-required jailhouse meeting, saying his bearded client lives in a rat-infested cell at an unsanitary facility that reeks of urine.
Attorney Scott Srebnick told U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe in a letter that an interview scheduled for Thursday by Probation Department officials should be delayed at least a month.
He said the extra time would allow more clarity regarding the risks of coronavirus amid dirty conditions at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, where Avenatti is housed. He awaits an April 21 trial on an indictment charging him with defrauding porn star Stormy Daniels of advances on a book deal. He has pleaded not guilty.
Srebnick said prosecutors oppose the request. A spokesman for prosecutors declined comment. A message left with a spokesman for the MCC was not immediately returned.
Avenatti, 49, was convicted last month of trying to extort up to $25 million from Nike. Sentencing is scheduled for June 17. Probation officials must interview Avenatti and recommend a sentence.
He awaits sentencing at the same federal lockup where Jeffrey Epstein was housed when he died in August in what a medical examiner labeled a suicide. Epstein was awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges after authorities said he attacked women and teenage girls sexually in Florida and Manhattan in the early 2000s.
Srebnick said inmates including Avenatti were confined to their cells for 10 days in late February after it was learned that a gun had been smuggled into the facility. The federal Bureau of Prisons confirmed to The Associated Press last week that a loaded gun was found during a weeklong hunt for contraband.
Srebnick said the lockdown worsened cramped and unsanitary conditions at the jail, leaving Avenatti in a rat-infested cell. He said Avenatti was permitted to shower only twice in 12 days at a place where many inmates lacked soap or hot water to wash hands. He also said alcohol-based sanitizers were banned and hot meals were denied.
“The jail reeks of urine. As of yesterday, Mr. Avenatti had not shaved in weeks,” Srebnick wrote.
He noted the growing concerns nationwide about the coronavirus and said “by all accounts, a prison facility poses among the highest risks of spread of infection.”
Srebnick said he had planned to fly to New York from Florida to attend Thursday’s meeting, but asked that it be postponed “given the uncertainty regarding the coronavirus, the ease with which it spreads, and the documented unsanitary conditions at the MCC-New York.”