Lawyer who once represented Stormy Daniels wins mistrial on charges he stole from clients
Michael Avenatti. Photo from Shutterstock.com.
U.S. District Judge James Selna of the Central District of California declared the mistrial more than a month into testimony against Avenatti, who once represented adult film actress Stormy Daniels in her suit to invalidate a confidentiality agreement with former President Donald Trump.
Selna said Avenatti, who is representing himself, was entitled to a mistrial because a government so-called taint team reviewing evidence didn’t turn over evidence on Avenatti’s law firm expenses in its possession. The material was from the software program TABS, which is an acronym for Tax and Bookkeeping Solutions.
TABS tracks case expenses, Law.com explained in a prior story. Avenatti had claimed that costs and fees lowered the amount of settlement money due to clients.
The taint team reviewed evidence on Avenatti’s servers to determine what should be withheld from the government because of attorney-client privilege. The taint team found the TABS material when Selna ordered a search of seized data over the weekend.
Selna said there “may have been some shortcomings in the review process” by the taint team, although he found no willful misconduct. But he said failure to hand over the data to Avenatti hampered his ability to challenge the government’s number on the alleged amount of misappropriation.
Avenatti skyrocketed to fame when he represented Daniels. Since then, he has been convicted for trying to extort millions of dollars from Nike and is facing federal charges in New York and California.
A new trial for Avenatti in the California wire fraud case is scheduled for Oct. 12. He also faces bank fraud charges in a split-off part of the California case and charges of stealing from Daniels in a pending New York case.