Michael Avenatti sentenced to 14 years prison in California fraud case

By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) – Michael Avenatti, the already imprisoned lawyer who represented porn actress Stormy Daniels in litigation against Donald Trump, was sentenced on Monday to another 14 years in prison after he admitted to cheating four other clients, including a paraplegic, out of millions of dollars.

The sentence imposed by U.S. District Judge James Selna in Santa Ana, California is in addition to the five years in prison that Avenatti, 51, was already serving for two unrelated convictions in Manhattan federal court.

Selna also ordered Avenatti to pay $10.8 million in restitution to the clients and the Internal Revenue Service. The agency said he obstructed it from collecting more than $3 million in payroll taxes from a coffee business he owned.

“Michael Avenatti was a corrupt lawyer who claimed he was fighting for the little guy. In fact, he only cared about his own selfish interests,” U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada in Los Angeles said. “Now he will serve a richly deserved prison sentence.”

Prosecutors had sought a 17-1/2 year prison term, on top of the existing five years, after Avenatti pleaded guilty in June to five charges of wire fraud and obstruction.

Avenatti, who is not a criminal lawyer but represented himself, in a court filing had asked for one additional year in prison, or six years overall.

He said he should be sentenced based on his life as a whole, and “not his notoriety; the desire of the government and others to make an example out of him; unbridled vindictiveness; and/or what those in the media, or on social media, may say.”

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Avenatti’s earlier imprisonment stemmed from his convictions in 2020 for trying to extort up to $25 million from Nike Inc, and in February for embezzling nearly $300,000 in book proceeds from Daniels.

When trying to help Daniels break a confidentiality agreement over her alleged affair with Trump, Avenatti became a fixture on cable TV news, attacking Trump and flirting with his own presidential run. Trump denied having an affair.

Avenatti had faced 36 charges in California. A trial on 10 of them ended in an August 2021 mistrial.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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