Michael Avenatti Found Guilty of Fraud and Identity Theft for Stealing from Stormy Daniels

Stormy Daniels' former lawyer stole around $300,000 of the $800,000 advance for her October 2018 book Full Disclosure about her alleged affair with Donald Trump prior to his presidency

Stormy Daniels and Michael Avenatti
Photo: Heidi Gutman/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty

Stormy Daniels' former lawyer Michael Avenatti has been convicted of stealing from the 42-year-old adult film star.

On Friday, a Manhattan jury found Avenatti, 50, guilty of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. Daniels' former lawyer stole around $300,000 of the $800,000 advance paid to Daniels for her October 2018 book Full Disclosure about her alleged affair with Donald Trump prior to his presidency.

Daniels, born Stephanie Clifford, told NBC News that she was "ecstatic" about the verdict and "grateful" that the jurors "set aside prejudged notions about me or my work" during the trial.

"A win is always great," Daniels said, "and I'm aware I won't ever get my money back and worried that if it had gone the other way it would set a very scary precedent for people in the adult film industry."

Daniels had previously hired Avenatti after accepting a $130,000 hush payment deal from Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen that had prohibited her from speaking about the alleged sexual encounter in public. The lawyer-client relationship fell apart after Daniels discovered Avenatti had kept some of the money from her book deal for himself.

"It's never okay to steal money from a client and he forged my signature," Daniels told NBC News.

Michael Avenatti, attorney and founding partner of Eagan Avenatti LP, arrives at federal court in New York, U.S., on Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022.
Angus Mordant/Bloomberg via Getty

Trump has denied the affair with Daniels, despite acknowledging their non-disclosure agreement.

It took three days of deliberations for the jury to come to a consensus on the charges against Avenatti. At one point, the jurors asked Judge Jesse Furman for help moving forward, noting that one individual was "not going on any evidence" but rather on their "emotions."

"We have one juror who is refusing to look at evidence and is acting on a feeling," the note said, per CNN. "We need assistance on moving forward. She does not believe she needs to prove her side using evidence and refuses to show us how she has come to her conclusion."

Avenatti, who represented himself, called for a mistrial, but Furman denied the motion. "I don't think we're there yet," he said, according to CNN.

After the ruling, Daniels' attorney Clark Brewster released a statement applauding the jury's decision and noting that Daniels "is relieved this nightmare is over."

"The text communications between Stormy and Mr. Avenatti in real time was overwhelming proof of his deceit and embezzlement," said Brewster, per ABC News. "The forgery of her name and his concealed directive to wire the money to him was irrefutable. Still, Mr. Avenatti possessed the uncanny ability to steadfastly deny the crimes and persuade others he was entitled to the embezzled funds. Stormy is pleased that the justice system worked."

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Outside of the courthouse, Avenatti told reporters that he planned to fight the ruling.

"I am very disappointed in the jury's verdict," he said, per NBC News and CNN. "I look forward to a full adjudication of all of the issues on appeal. Thank you."

Avenatti is already a convicted felon, having been found guilty of attempting to extort millions of dollars from Nike in February 2020. He was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison for the crime.

Avenatti could face up to 22 years in prison for his latest conviction. Daniels told The New York Post that she does not wish leniency on her former lawyer.

"He showed absolutely no remorse, lying about me right until the end," Daniels told the Post. "I'll leave the sentencing to the judge but the maximum would be nice, but then again so would an apology. I am not really holding my breath for either."

"I know that I'm never going to get that money back because he doesn't have it," she added. "I do look forward to speaking at his sentencing hearing and I guess I will just have to take comfort in knowing that he can't do this to anyone else."

Avenatti is scheduled for sentencing on May 24.

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