Trump antagonist Avenatti's bail revoked, unhappy NY judge delays Nike extortion trial

Attorney Michael Avenatti speaks to reporters at the US District Court to face embezzlement and fraud charges in Santa Ana, California April 1, 2019. — Reuters pic
Attorney Michael Avenatti speaks to reporters at the US District Court to face embezzlement and fraud charges in Santa Ana, California April 1, 2019. — Reuters pic

NEW YORK, Jan 16 — A federal judge yesterday revoked Michael Avenatti's bail after the celebrity lawyer and critic of US President Donald Trump was accused of hiding money from creditors, triggering a delay in a separate trial where Avenatti is charged with trying to extort Nike Inc .

US District Judge James Selna remanded Avenatti to federal custody at a hearing in Santa Ana, California, where prosecutors had charged him last March with stealing millions of dollars from clients, defrauding a bank and lying to the Internal Revenue Service and a bankruptcy court.

Prosecutors said Avenatti concealed US$1 million (RM4.07 million) he received last April, in a client settlement, from his second ex-wife and other creditors to whom he owed more than US$11 million, spending some on a Mercedes-Benz.

Avenatti is awaiting trial on three federal indictments, and has pleaded not guilty on all charges.

In the Nike case, Avenatti was charged in Manhattan with threatening to publicly accuse the sportswear company of improperly paying families of college basketball recruits unless it paid him up to US$25 million to conduct a probe plus US$1.5 million to his client, a youth basketball coach.

US District Judge Paul Gardephe, who oversees the Nike case, said Avenatti's arrest caused an “enormous disruption” requiring an adjournment of the January 21 trial, which Avenatti will be allowed to attend. Gardephe said he would be “very reluctant” to delay it past January 27.

Jose Quinon, a lawyer for Avenatti, sought a longer delay, saying that because the new accusations involved money his client controlled, they undermined Avenatti's ability even to pay for witnesses.

“The rug has been pulled from under us because this was absolutely, totally unexpected,” Quinon said. “It's like going to war without weapons.”

Gardephe urged both sides to work out their differences. “I'm asking that people be practical here, given the hand we have been dealt, which is a bad one,” he said.

Avenatti became famous as a self-described Trump nemesis and for representing porn actress Stormy Daniels, who received hush money before the 2016 election not to reveal an alleged sexual encounter with Trump, which the president denies.

Earlier yesterday, Gardephe refused to dismiss the Nike prosecution, which Avenatti called “vindictive”" and payback for his animosity toward Trump.

The judge found no evidence of malice, and noted that it was Nike that alerted prosecutors to the alleged extortion.

“Avenatti is being prosecuted for activities wholly unrelated to the political arena,” Gardephe wrote.

Before his Tuesday arrest, Avenatti faced a possible 335 years in prison in the California case.

He was also charged in Manhattan with stealing nearly US$300,000 of Daniels' proceeds from her book contract. — Reuters

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