Clare Bronfman, an heiress to the Seagram liquor fortune, fainted Wednesday in federal court in New York City after a judge asked if she was being secretly represented by embattled celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti in a case where she is charged with money laundering and identity theft involving the alleged sex-cult NXIVM.
After Bronfman's fainting spell, it was revealed in open court that Avenatti had, in fact, last week met with federal prosecutors in Brooklyn about her case, according to a knowledgeable source. The details of that meeting were not disclosed.
With him at that sitdown was a lawyer known to be representing Bronfman, fellow celebrity lawyer Mark Geragos, who has been identified as an alleged co-conspirator of Avenatti's in a purported scheme to extort sneaker giant Nike, a prosecutor told the judge in the case. Geragos has not been criminally charged with Avenatti.
Bronfman's apparent collapse in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn came two days after Avenatti was accused by federal prosecutors in Manhattan and Los Angeles of trying to extort Nike for up to $25 million, defrauding a client out of a legal settlement, and defrauding a bank by offering the lender bogus income tax returns.
The hearing in Brooklyn was called to apprise Bronfman of the possible conflicts her lawyers would have in representing her in her own criminal case, given their potential legal exposure to the same Justice Department that is prosecuting her. While Geragos has filed an appearance in Bronfman's case as her lawyer, Avenatti has not — despite meeting with prosecutors about her.