Michael Avenatti has again been found guilty in a criminal trial, this time for stealing from his former client, Stormy Daniels.
Avenatti, the attorney who rose to fame after representing Daniels in a lawsuit against then-President Donald Trump, was convicted of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft on Friday after allegedly defrauding Daniels out of almost $300,000 from a book deal, CNN reports.
Prosecutors said Avenatti directed payments meant to go to Daniels to an account he controlled, sending a letter to her literary agency that included her falsified signature, according to The New York Times. Daniels testified during the trial that Avenatti "stole from me and lied to me," and prosecutor Robert Sobelman said Daniels "thought he was her advocate, but he betrayed her and he told lies to try to cover it all up."
Avenatti represented himself during the trial, arguing prosecutors did not prove that he "possessed fraudulent intent and lacked good faith." At one bizarre point during the proceedings, he tried to call Daniels' credibility into question by asking her about her paranormal beliefs and claims that she can speak with the dead. The verdict came shortly after it was reported that the jury said it needed assistance because one juror was "refusing to look at evidence" and was "acting on a feeling."
Avenatti was previously found guilty in 2020 on charges including attempted extortion and honest-services fraud in connection with a plot to extort Nike. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison and tearfully told a judge, "I and I alone have destroyed my career, my relationships, my life." On Friday, Avenatti told CNN he was "very disappointed in the jury's verdict" and planned to appeal. According to The Washington Post, he faces up to 22 years in prison.