Trump's porn star saga lawyer sentenced
Michael Avenatti, the disgraced lawyer who made hundreds of appearances as a critic of former US president Donald Trump on CNN and other legacy media outlets, has been sentenced to 14 years in federal prison for defrauding clients and obstructing collection of taxes from his coffee business.
US District Court Judge James Selna handed down the prison term on Monday and ordered Avenatti to pay $7 million in restitution to his victims, including a paraplegic man who was injured in a Los Angeles County jail. The former lawyer is already serving a five-year prison term for trying to extort more than $20 million from Nike and defrauding another client, Stormy Daniels, the porn star who sued Trump for defamation in 2018.
The latest term will run consecutively with the sentence imposed earlier this year, meaning it won’t start until Avenatti, 51, completes the prison time for his other convictions. He had faced a sentence of up to 335 years before pleading guilty earlier this year to four of the 36 charges filed against him, avoiding a trial.
Prosecutors alleged that Avenatti cheated clients out of $12 million by negotiating legal settlements on their behalf, then lying about the terms and funneling much of the money into accounts that he controlled. For instance, he landed a $4 million settlement for Geoffrey Johnson, a suicidal paraplegic who was injured while in jail, but his client allegedly only received about $124,000, paid out in small increments as “advances” while the lawyer claimed the money hadn’t been received.
Avenatti made 254 television appearances in 2018, often being featured on CNN, MSNBC, ABC and other outlets to excoriate Trump, according to the MRC media watchdog.
Such media figures as then-CNN host Brian Stelter and Washington Post White House bureau chief Philip Rucker touted Avenatti as a top 2020 presidential candidate. MSNBC contributor Eddie Glaude Jr. called him the “savior of the republic,” while talk-show host Stephen Colbert branded him an “existential threat to the Trump presidency.”