Stormy Daniels is taking on her disgraced ex-lawyer Michael Avenatti in a crazy trial
New York, New York - Stormy Daniels is an Manhattan federal court to square off with Michael Avenatti, her former lawyer and onetime ally who the feds charge scammed her out of $300,000 as she made him famous.
"He’s the gentleman standing up in the blue shirt," Daniels said of Avenatti when she took the stand at 11:10 AM on Thursday, telling the jury he once defended her in lawsuits against former President Donald Trump.
"I hired a new attorney because he stole from me and lied to me."
Daniels, clad in a maroon cardigan over a black dress with black heels, did not look at Avenatti as she made her way to the stand.
Avenatti is expected to question Daniels on cross-examination, having dumped his court-appointed attorneys on Tuesday to represent himself at the criminal trial. He told the court he expects to question her for up to six hours.
The porn actor, model, author and director said she retained Avenatti as her lawyer in early 2018 in litigation against then-President Trump, who she claimed to have had an affair with in 2006.
Daniels said she met with Avenatti about representing her over lunch in Beverly Hills. She claimed she told him she couldn’t afford to pay for costly legal representation.
"He said it would be $100," Daniels testified, adding that she paid him on the spot and Avenatti used the cash to pay for lunch.
"He said he was going to set up a legal defense that was crowdfunded and that he would win – he would take a lot of money from the winnings against Donald Trump."
The rise and fall of Avenatti
Daniels said the plan – according to their contract – was for Avenatti to get her out of a $130,000 agreement to stay silent about her alleged Trump affair and that his firm would counsel her for media appearances.
Avenatti earned a reputation as an anti-Trump folk hero for his aggressive legal tactics and ubiquitous presence on cable TV. At one point, he even mulled his own shot at the presidency.
Avenatti said defending himself is the best chance he has to beat the charges that carry up to 22 years in federal prison.
His downfall was as steep as his meteoric rise. By November 2018, a rift emerged between Daniels and Avenatti, who she claimed was launching crowdfunding campaigns without her involvement or consent and had filed a defamation case against Trump against her wishes.
The same year, the feds say Avenatti stole the second and third of four advance payments for Daniels’ tell-all memoir, Full Disclosure.
The pair officially parted ways in February 2019. Avenatti was indicted three months later on charges he stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from his highest-profile client and used the cash to splurge on travel, payments for his Ferrari and to balance the books at his debt-laden law firm.
A paranormal line of questioning
The government’s case hinges on a counterfeit letter with Daniels’ forged signature, which Avenatti allegedly sent to her publisher instructing advance payments be rerouted to an account he controlled.
Avenatti contends Daniels authorized him to transmit money into a trust account in her name at his firm as she sought to hide money from her estranged husband.
On Friday, he questioned Daniels about her belief in the paranormal. "How do you speak with the dead?" Avenatti asked her, according to Reuters.
"I don't know, it just happens sometimes," Daniels replied, claiming that she sometimes records her conversations with the departed.
In spring 2018 Daniels and Avenatti appeared together as allies when former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen was the one facing jail time in the same lower Manhattan courthouse where they are now going head-to-head.
Cohen would serve three years in prison for issuing the hush money payment to Daniels, which forced her to stay quiet about the alleged affair with Trump, and an assortment of other crimes.
Now finished with his sentence, Trump’s former fixer told the Daily News he planned to be in the courtroom when Avenatti questions Daniels, who he says he is now friends with.
The 50-year-old Avenatti faces wire fraud and aggravated identity theft charges. He’s yet to serve a 2 1/2-year sentence for trying to extort Nike for 25 million dollars. He represented himself in a separate California case on charges he embezzled more of his clients. That case ended in a mistrial.
Cover photo: Collage: IMAGO / CHROMORANGE & Everett Collection