Politics

'100% not guilty!' — Michael Avenatti proclaims innocence at arraignments for alleged Nike extortion, Stormy Daniels swindle

Key Points
  • Michael Avenatti on Tuesday proclaimed himself to be an innocent man at a double-header of arraignments in New York federal court on charges of trying to extort sneaker giant Nike out of more than $20 million, and of swindling his porn star client Stormy Daniels out of about $300,000 in book sales.
  • "100% not guilty!" the bombastic attorney Avenatti said four times as the separate charges in an indictment for the purported Nike shakedown were called out by Judge Paul Gardephe in U.S. District Court in lower Manhattan.
  • Judge James Cott restricted Avenatti's travel and orders him to have no contact with Daniels, who sued President Donald Trump last year in connection with a hush-money deal involving an alleged affair with Trump.
Attorney Michael Avenatti walks away after addressing the media outside the Santa Ana federal courthouse in Santa Ana, California on May 7, 2019.
Frederic J. Brown | AFP | Getty Images

Michael Avenatti on Tuesday proclaimed himself to be an innocent man at a double-header of arraignments in New York federal court on charges of trying to extort sneaker giant Nike out of more than $20 million, and of swindling his porn star client Stormy Daniels out of about $300,000 in book sales.

"100% not guilty!" Avenatti said four times as the separate charges in an indictment for the purported Nike shakedown were called out by Judge Paul Gardephe in U.S. District Court in lower Manhattan.

Avenatti is accused in that case of threatening to go public with claims that Nike was facilitating payments to the families of high-school basketball players if the company didn't cough up a lot of cash to him and his client.

Hours beforehand, Avenatti's defense lawyer had entered a not-guilty plea on his behalf at his arraignment on separate charges of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection with the alleged theft from Daniels.

The alleged theft occurred last year as he was representing Daniels in civil litigation against President Donald Trump and his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, in connection with a hush-money deal they cut with her on the eve of the 2016 presidential election to keep her quiet about her purported affair with Trump. The president denies having sex with Daniels.

The 49-year-old, hyper-aggressive Avenatti, who remains free on a $300,000 personal recognizance bond, was indicted last week in the Daniels case, where he is accused of forging her signature to obtain money due her from the sales of her book, "Full Disclosure."

An indictment filed last week accuses him of spending some of the money he allegedly swindled from Daniels on a lease payment for his Ferrari, travel expenses, dry cleaning and $56,000 in payroll at his law firm.

He also is charged in a third, 36-count indictment in federal court in California with stealing other client funds, tax crimes, bank fraud, false testimony and aggravated identity fraud.

After multiple appearances in court Tuesday, Avenatti talked to reporters outside.

"For over 20 years, I have represented Davids versus Goliaths across this nation in many courthouses just like this. I am now facing the fight of my life against the ultimate Goliath — the Trump administration," Avenatti said.

"I intend on fighting these charges, and I look forward to a jury verdict in each of these cases. I am confident that when a jury of my peers passes judgement on my conduct, that justice will be done, and I will be fully exonerated."

At Avenatti's first court appearance of the day, Judge James Cott ordered him to have no contact with Daniels.

Cott also restricted Avenatti's travel, ordering him to stay either within the Central District of California, where the lawyer's Los Angeles residence is located, or in lower New York state, including New York City and its surrounding counties.

If he wants to travel elsewhere within the U.S., Avenatti first must notify federal authorities.

Avenatti's lawyer in that case, Sylvie Levine of the Federal Defender's office, said she would not continue to represent him as the case advances to trial or some other resolution.

Avenatti later said that he plans to retain a private criminal defense lawyer to represent him for the case, but "I just have not had the opportunity to finalize that at this time."

VIDEO9:1709:17
Watch CNBC's full interview with Michael Avenatti

The charges came two months after federal prosecutors in Manhattan and California separately charged him in criminal complaints with the alleged Nike extortion and with swindling clients. Both those cases were followed by indictments, which advance the cases toward trials.

Avenatti has denied wrongdoing in all three cases.

In a statement after he was charged in the Daniels case, Avenatti said: "No monies relating to Ms. Daniels were ever misappropriated or mishandled."

"She received millions of dollars worth of legal services and we spent huge sums in expenses. She directly paid only $100.00 for all that she received. I look forward to a jury hearing the evidence," Avenatti said.

Daniels last year sued Trump and his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen in connection with a hush-money deal she signed with them shortly before the 2016 presidential election to obtain her silence about her alleged affair with Trump a decade earlier. Trump denies he had sex with her.

Avenatti's appearance for the arraignment in the federal courthouse in lower Manhattan was brief, starting at 12:13 p.m. ET and lasting about 20 minutes. He returned within two hours for a pre-trial conference in the same case, but with a different judge, Deborah Batts.

At that hearing, Avenatti's defense lawyer for the Nike extortion case, Scott Srebnick, asked Batts for permission to file a so-called Rule 21 motion to transfer the Daniels-related case to the Avenatti's other case in federal court in California.

Srebnick argued that the facts in the Daniels case are similar to some of the charges that Avenatti is facing in California, an that it would be unfair to force Avenatti to hire different lawyers for each of those cases.

But assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Podolsky argued that the Daniels case should remain in New York, since "almost all of the witnesses in this case are from the New York area." The prosecutor also said, "this is is not the same as the cases brought in California."

"This is clearly a delay tactic," Podolsky said.

The judge denied Srebnick's request for permission to file the transfer motion.

Avenatti then headed to his arraignment in the Nike case.

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