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Celebrity attorney Michael Avenatti says he will plead not guilty to federal fraud charges in California

Key Points
  • Attorney Michael Avenatti, who represented porn star Stormy Daniels in lawsuits against President Donald Trump, says he will plead not guilty to criminal charges in federal court in California.
  • On April 11, federal prosecutors in California announce a 36-count indictment accusing Avenatti of tax crimes, wire fraud and perjury.
  • "We don't convict someone in America based on a one-sided argument and a press conference," Avenatti tweets. "Even when he is one of the biggest enemies of the president and his son."
Michael Avenatti
Andrew Cullen | Reuters

Michael Avenatti, the attorney who represented porn star Stormy Daniels in lawsuits against President Donald Trump, said Monday that he will plead not guilty to criminal charges including defrauding clients and failing to pay millions in taxes to the IRS.

"We don't convict someone in America based on a one-sided argument and a press conference," Avenatti, 48, wrote in a statement shared on Twitter. "Even when he is one of the biggest enemies of the president and his son."

Avenatti is scheduled to enter his not-guilty plea in federal court in Santa Ana, California, later Monday morning.

On April 11, federal prosecutors in California announced a 36-count indictment accusing Avenatti of tax crimes, wire fraud and perjury. IRS investigators alleged that Avenatti had stolen money through a "tangled financial web of lies" and used it "to fund a lavish lifestyle which had no limits."

Prosecutors claim that Avenatti hid and then spent a $4 million legal settlement obtained in January 2015 in favor of a mentally ill paraplegic client, and hid a $2.75 million settlement for another client that Avenatti allegedly used to help pay for his share of the purchase of a private jet valued at up to $5 million.

Those charges were revealed less than three weeks after Avenatti was arrested in New York in a separate case in which federal prosecutors said he had attempted to extort more than $20 million from Nike by threatening to expose alleged evidence of bribing amateur basketball players and their families unless the company paid up.

A separate federal complaint was filed in Los Angeles the same day of his arrest, alleging Avenatti tried to embezzle his clients' money to pay his and his companies' "expenses and debts," as well as attempting to execute a wire fraud scheme against a bank.

Avenatti said in the tweet that he is entitled to the presumption of innocence and will be limiting further public statements about the cases against him until trial.

If convicted in the California case, Avenatti faces a maximum possible sentence of 333 years in prison.

Avenatti gained national attention as the pugnacious and media-friendly legal representative of Stormy Daniels, the adult film star and director who alleges she had a sexual encounter with Trump years before he became president.

Daniels, with Avenatti, sued Trump and his former attorney, Michael Cohen, to void a $130,000 hush-money agreement she signed shortly before the 2016 presidential election barring her from discussing that alleged dalliance. Trump denies he had sex with Daniels.

Daniels and Avenatti had filed a separate defamation suit against Trump after he suggested that she had lied about being threatened in a Las Vegas parking lot to keep her mouth shut about the alleged tryst. Daniels lost that defamation suit and was ordered in December to pay Trump nearly $300,000 in legal fees.

Avenatti no longer represents Daniels.