Lawyer Michael Avenatti, who made headlines for his anti-Donald Trump stance, was sentenced to four years in prison Thursday for cheating his former client out of $300,000 in cash from a book deal.
Avenatti was convicted of aggravated identity fraud and wire fraud in a New York federal court earlier in 2022. He could have faced two years in prison for the first charge and 20 years for the second.
During his sentencing, Avenatti acknowledged that he made a “series of mistakes” and “poor judgment” when he represented and bilked Stormy Daniels out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Previously, Avenatti said he did not want to appear at the sentencing, but the judge ordered him to.
“I will forever be branded ‘disgraced lawyer’ and worse,” he also said Thursday.
District Judge Jesse Furman said Thursday that Avenatti’s conduct was “so brazen and egregious” and said that he “took advantage of a vulnerable victim given her unorthodox career and somewhat unorthodox beliefs,” referring to Daniels, an adult film actress.
Avenatti, meanwhile, still faces a retrial in California federal court in another case in which is being accused of stealing nearly $10 million from five clients. He’s also currently serving a 30-month prison sentence for attempting to extort more than $20 million from Nike by threatening to release damaging information to the public unless he was paid.
Furman said that part of Thursday’s sentence will be served alongside the prison term that was handed down in connection to the Nike case. Avenatti will have to serve two and a half years after the Nike sentence is completed.
The disgraced lawyer also has to pay $148,750 to Daniels and $297,900 to the federal government, Furman said.
The sentencing marks another chapter in the tumultuous rise and fall of Avenatti, who was heavily featured on MSNBC and CNN during the Trump years as he claimed he would run for president while representing Daniels, who made a series of accusations against the former president.
As a guest on mainstream news programs to discuss a lawsuit Daniels had filed against Trump, Avenatti logged more than 100 CNN and MSNBC appearances from March 7 to May 10, 2018, according to an analysis. In that time frame, Avenatti simultaneously gained hundreds of thousands of followers on Twitter and other social media platforms.
But his time in the spotlight quickly came crashing down in early 2019 when he was arrested in New York City over the Nike extortion case. “I’m not [expletive] around with this, and I’m not continuing to play games,” he told the Nike attorney, according to court documents.
Last month, Avenatti issued an apology letter to Daniels, which was handed to Judge Furman.
“It is obvious that I failed you in many respects and that I disappointed you and let you down in multiple ways,” he wrote, adding: “I wish that we could turn back the clock so that the mistakes I made would never be repeated. I am truly sorry.”
But prosecutors in a sentencing submission last week urged that he should face “substantial” additional time in prison for a wire fraud conviction and criticized his apology letter, saying the 51-year-old failed to apologize for his actual crime.
“The defendant certainly had every right to defend himself at trial. But he is not entitled to a benefit for showing remorse, having done so only when convenient and only after seeking to humiliate his victim at a public trial, and denigrating and insulting her for months to her agent and publisher while holding himself out as taking up her cause against the powerful who might have taken advantage of her,” prosecutors wrote.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
BREAKING NEWS REPORTER
Jack Phillips is a breaking news reporter at The Epoch Times based in New York.