Celebrity lawyer and former Trump foe gets 14 more years in prison

US

US lawyer Michael Avenatti, who rose to fame representing porn actor Stormy Daniels during her legal battles with Donald Trump, has been sentenced to 14 years in prison.

Already in jail for separate convictions, Avenatti admitted cheating four of his clients out of millions of dollars.

He was also ordered to pay more than $10m (£8.2m) in restitution. The prison sentence will run consecutively to the five years he is currently serving for stealing book proceeds from Daniels and for trying to extort Nike into paying him up to $25m (£20.5m).

Pic: AP
Image:
Avenatti became a firm foe of Donald Trump. Pic: AP

It is the last of three major federal criminal cases to wrap up against the 51-year-old Californian, who became one of the former president’s leading adversaries.

Avenatti pleaded guilty earlier this year to four counts of wire fraud and a tax-related charge. He was accused of negotiating and collecting settlement payments on behalf of his clients and funnelling the money to accounts he controlled, and spending it on his own lavish lifestyle, including a private jet.

Prosecutor Brett Sagel told the court in Santa Ana, California: “Despite the significant advantages this defendant had – a first-rate education, a thriving legal career – he chose to commit the deplorable acts in this case time and time again.

“The defendant is just another criminal who thinks the law is something that applies to other people.”

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His voice breaking, Avenatti apologised to his victims, including two who told the court about how losing the money and their trust in someone they thought had their back upended their lives.

In one incident, Avenatti collected a $4m (£3.3m) settlement from Los Angeles County for a man who suffered injuries while in custody, and was left paraplegic after a suicide attempt, but Avenatti never told him the money was received.

Instead, authorities said Avenatti used the funds to finance his coffee business and pay personal expenses, and gave the man smaller amounts ranging from $1,000 to $1,900 that he called advances on the broader settlement.

The man, Geoffrey Johnson, told the court: “I am not sure I ever can trust anyone else again.”

Avenatti rose to prominence representing Daniels, who claimed she was paid hush money to stay quiet about an extramarital affair with former President Donald Trump.

Daniels had sued Mr Trump in 2018, and tried to cancel a non-disclosure agreement about the alleged affair.

Avenatti became a regular chat show guest, often outspoken about Mr Trump. Commentators even suggested at one point that Avenatti may run for president.

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