By BOBBY CAINA CALVAN and LARRY NEUMEISTER Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) — Michael Avenatti will be sentenced Thursday for cheating client Stormy Daniels, the porn actor who catapulted him to fame, of hundreds of thousands of dollars in book proceeds.
The California lawyer, currently incarcerated, is expected to learn his fate in Manhattan federal court, where he was ordered to appear in person rather than remotely.
At trial earlier this year, Avenatti represented himself, cross-examining his former client for hours about their experiences in early 2018, when she signed a book deal that provided an $800,000 payout. Prosecutors said he illegally pocketed about $300,000 of her advance on “Full Disclosure,” published in fall 2018.
The book’s publication came at a time when Avenatti’s law practice was failing financially even as he appeared regularly on cable television news channels.
In the appearances, he attacked then-President Donald Trump as he represented Daniels in lawsuits meant to free her from a $130,000 hush payment she received shortly before the 2016 presidential election to remain silent about a tryst she said she had with Trump a decade earlier. Trump denied it.
His conviction for aggravated identity theft requires a mandatory two-year prison sentence. He’s already serving a 2 1/2-year sentence for trying to extort Nike. And he faces a retrial in California on charges that he cheated clients and others of millions of dollars there.
Avenatti’s lawyers have argued that he should face no additional time in prison for a wire fraud conviction in the Daniels case. They say any sentence should be served at the same time as the sentence in the Nike case. Avenatti was convicted of threatening to ruin the shoemaker’s reputation if it did not pay him up to $25 million.
The lawyers cited an apology letter Avenatti recently wrote to Daniels in which he said: “I am truly sorry.”
But prosecutors said in a sentencing submission last week that he should face “substantial” additional time in prison for the wire fraud conviction and criticized his apology letter, saying the 51-year-old failed to apologize for his actual crime.
And they recalled that during “an extremely lengthy” cross-examination, he “berated his victim for lewd language and being a difficult client, questioned her invasively about marital and familial difficulties, and sought to cast her as crazy, much as he did during the course of his fraud to prevent her own agent and publisher from responding to her pleas for help.”
“The defendant certainly had every right to defend himself at trial. But he is not entitled to a benefit for showing remorse, having done so only when convenient and only after seeking to humiliate his victim at a public trial, and denigrating and insulting her for months to her agent and publisher while holding himself out as taking up her cause against the powerful who might have taken advantage of her,” prosecutors wrote.