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The Avenatti Roller Coaster Has Been on the Downhill for Some Time, But Where Will it End?


California attorney Michael Avenatti has had himself quite a last year or so, going from high-profile legal representative for Stormy Daniels against President Donald Trump to possible presidential candidate in 2020 to defendant in California and New York for alleged offenses like bank fraud and wire fraud, and extortion of Nike.

Avenatti admitted during an interview with CBS This Morning that he was “concerned,” “nervous, and “scared,” while also maintaining that the “facts are on his side.”

Admitting that he is concerned is a bigger step than many have acknowledged when you consider how Avenatti has responded to other issues. Consider the ongoing bankruptcy issue, in which Avenatti has on two occasions filed for bankruptcy regarding the law firm Eagan Avenatti on the eve of scheduled depositions about the millions he’s been order to pay to former law partner Jason Frank.

Avenatti as told us, “Who cares?” But the facts haven’t been on Avenatti’s side lately and this seems to have started with his decision to represent Julie Swetnick during the contentious Brett Kavanaugh hearings. Avenatti, taking advantage of the notoriety he had gained, claimed to have “significant evidence of multiple house parties in the Washington, D.C. area in the early 1980s during which Brett Kavanaugh, Mark Judge and others would participate in the targeting of women with alcohol/drugs in order to allow a ‘train’ of men to gang rape them.”

At the time, Law&Crime said that such claims of “gang rape” being made about a person who was still technically a sitting judge amounted to Avenatti walking a “murky ethical line.” Some Democrats were uneasy about Avenatti’s involvement in the proceedings to begin with and believed this hurt Dr. Christine Blasey Ford‘s case, but it got worse when Swetnick’s ex went public with comments, when Swetnick did her TV interview and, ultimately, when then-Senate Judiciary Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) referred the Swetnick allegation to the DOJ for a criminal probe.

Avenatti and Grassley continue to duel about this subject.

Avenatti’s representation of Swetnick was followed by an interesting series of events. For one, the client who launched him into household name status criticized him publicly for filing a lawsuit without telling Daniels and against her wishes, raising more ethics questions. Then, in November 2018, Avenatti was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence. Avenatti promised he would be exonerated; the charges in the case were dropped.

Avenatti blamed internet troll Jacob Wohl for setting him up and continues to fight that battle.

Along the way he’s removed himself as a candidate for the presidency, started representing Statue of Liberty climber Patricia Okoumou, started representing immigrant children who were separated from their parents at the border and started fighting on Twitter with immigration attorneys who criticized the job he was doing.

He’s now representing an R. Kelly accuser, but also recently lost Stormy Daniels as a client.

“I have retained Clark Brewster as my personal lawyer and have asked him and his firm to review all legal matters involving me,” Daniels announced. On the R. Kelly front and the Daniels front, things still appear to be up in the air.

After charges against Avenatti were announced in New York and California, Daniels said “I made the decision more than a month ago to terminate Michael’s services after discovering that he had dealt with me extremely dishonestly and there will be more announcements to come,” suggesting should could speak to additional wrongdoing.

Looming large in the background is another issue that Avenatti has said is a “nothing burger. ”

An emergency hearing previously occurred after a former law partner named Jason Frank alleged that Avenatti improperly filed for bankruptcy protection a second time to avoid a deposition about where significant cash was. A prior judgment of $10 million had already been awarded to Frank and U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Catherine Bauer decided to dismiss the second bankruptcy filing.

She also ordered Avenatti to explain why he filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy on the eve of a scheduled deposition and prevented him from filing for bankruptcy protection for 180 days (or six months).

“I haven’t operated under this firm primarily for years,” Avenatti told Law&Crime at the time. “This is a big nothing burger that has little to no impact on me or my current firm. Who cares?” He reiterated that he has engaged in no wrongdoing.

Frank’s attorneys, on the other hand, said that Avenatti had something to hide. “That Mr. Avenatti would try something so desperate speaks volumes about how bad the evidence is against him,” Eric George said. “He owes Mr. Frank money. That’s it. Full stop,” Andrew Stolper added.

Let’s just say that it’s not a good look that they’re saying money is missing and the State of California is alleging that he committed wire fraud and bank fraud to embezzle a client’s money to pay off his own debts and that he used fraudulent tax returns to secure a bank loan. Nor is it a good look that, at the same time, he’s accused of shaking down Nike, though in the Nike case Avenatti has only doubled down.

Either way, he faces significant time if convicted of these crimes, and all of this also puts the future of Avenatti’s law license in question. Meanwhile, R. Kelly’s attorney has already used the charges against Avenatti to undermine the sex tape being cited as damning evidence in the case.

U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna has emphasized that the charges against Avenatti in California are serious.

“Mr. Avenatti is facing serious criminal charges alleging he misappropriated client trust funds for his personal use and he defrauded a bank by submitting phony tax returns in order to obtain millions of dollars in loans,” he said.

Where will it end for Avenatti?

Law&Crime has reached out to him for comment on these latest allegations.

[Image via Ethan Miller/Getty Images]

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.