Attorney Michael Avenatti has gone from mulling a 2020 presidential bid to being indicted on a raft of charges in both California and New York within the space of a few months. The bombastic litigator became a regular cable news guest when he announced that he was suing President Donald Trump over an alleged affair with the adult film actress Stormy Daniels. However, he was a far more subdued figure on April 29 when he entered pleas of not guilty to multiple counts in a Los Angeles district court.
U.S. attorneys claim that Avenatti used millions of dollars that should’ve gone to his clients to keep his failing legal practice afloat and fund a lavish lifestyle that featured lavish apartments, exotic automobiles and a private jet. One of his victims is alleged to have been a mentally ill paraplegic man. The 48-year-old attorney faces the possibility of being behind bars for the remainder of his life if he’s convicted on all counts.
Avenatti denies the allegations and claims that he is being set up by a cabal of powerful enemies. He vowed to fight the charges against him before a jury in an angry Tweet, and he reminded his hundreds of thousands of followers that criminal defendants in the United States are presumed innocent. In addition to multiple embezzlement counts, Avenatti has been charged with both wire and bank fraud. He has also been indicted on extortion charges by federal prosecutors in New York.
Experienced criminal defense attorneys may advise individuals who have been charged with serious crimes by U.S. attorneys to avoid making inflammatory statements on social media or in the press while their cases are pending. The majority of such matters are resolved at the negotiating table long before they reach a courtroom. It may be difficult for defense attorneys to coax lenient treatment out of federal prosecutors who have been publicly criticized.