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Federal Judge Really, Really Doesn’t Want Michael Avenatti to Have Internet Access


A federal judge in California on Monday revised the rules governing Michael Avenatti’s temporary conditional release from a federal lockup in Manhattan, enacting strict measures to ensure that the attorney-turned-convicted felon and noted frequent Twitter user does not have recreational internet access.

Avenatti had been held in New York’s Metropolitan Correctional Center, where he was awaiting sentencing after being convicted in the Nike extortion case in February. But the worst may still yet be to come in California, where a tax evasion, fraud, and embezzlement case looms large against the one-time celebrity attorney.

In a three-page order, U.S. District Judge James V. Selna of the Central District of California said that Avenatti may have access to a computer for the purpose of reviewing discovery in both of the cases against him, provided that computer has no internet access.

The computer, which will be provided by his defense attorney, must be have “Net Disabler computer software or a comparable software program” to ensure Avenatti cannot access the internet when using the computer.

“Defense counsel shall maintain the password for the Net Disabler software and shall not share the password with defendant or any other person,” Selna wrote. “Within 24 hours of defendant obtaining an internet-disabled computer, defendant and/or his counsel shall provide the United States Probation and Pretrial Services Office and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California with a description of the computer and confirm in writing that the computer’s internet access has been disabled. “

Under Selna’s original order issued in April, Avenatti’s attorney had to email any legal documents to his third-party custodian and friend  Jay Manheimer, who could then print them for Avenatti to review.

In a court filing on Sunday, federal prosecutors accused Avenatti of “using his third-party custodian Mr. Manheimer’s computer to personally draft the past five documents that defendant has filed in this case”; they asked the court to investigate whether Avenatti violated the terms of his release.

“At a minimum, defendant and his counsel, H. Dean Steward, appear to have intentionally misled this Court when they claimed that defendant was unable to access a computer to review discovery in this case during the past six weeks,” prosecutors wrote.

Avenatti’s attorney filed a response, arguing that there was no evidence supporting the government’s claim that he violated the judge’s order.

The remainder of restrictions on Avenatti’s release remain the same, meaning he must remain at Manheimer’s place in Venice, California, “at all times and with no exceptions, other than emergency medical treatment after notification to Pretrial Services.” He can’t sell possessions or even give anything away valued at $500 or more without letting the government know.

See Selna’s full order below.

Avenatti Modify Conditions … by Law&Crime on Scribd

[image via Phillip Faraone_Getty Images for Politicon]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.