Stormy Daniels, who Michael Avenatti once represented but then allegedly embezzled $300,000 from, said Thursday that she hopes her beleaguered former attorney is able to turn his life around after being sentenced to 30 months in prison Thursday for a separate extortion case.
“He was a man you wanted to trust and believe in, but the longer I knew him I began witnessing his lies and dishonesty until I realized I too became his victim,” Stormy Daniels said in a statement Thursday. “I am sure today he found a reckoning. Let’s hope that that leads to [an] honest realization that he must change his life.”
Avenatti rocketed to fame in 2018 when he represented Daniels in lawsuits against then-President Donald Trump, who the adult film actress said she had an affair with a decade earlier. Daniels alleged that she was paid $130,000 in 2016 by Trump’s personal lawyer to stay silent about the fling. Trump denies the affair ever happened.
Adult film actress/director Stormy Daniels and attorney Michael Avenatti attend the 2019 Adult Video News Awards at The Joint inside the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on January 26, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images)
A frequent guest on cable news and prolific user of Twitter, Avenatti eventually starting hinting that he might run against former President Trump in the 2020 presidential election, but those political aspirations went up in flames when prosecutors in California and New York charged him with fraud in March 2019.
A couple of months after that, federal prosecutors in New York accused Avenatti of embezzling $300,000 from Daniels by using a doctored document to divert proceeds from her book deal into his own accounts for personal and business expenses.
“[Avenatti] blatantly lied to and stole from his client to maintain his extravagant lifestyle, including to pay for, among other things, a monthly car payment on a Ferrari,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in May 2019 when announcing the charges. “Far from zealously representing his client, Avenatti, as alleged, instead engaged in outright deception and theft, victimizing rather than advocating for his client.”
Prosecutors said Avenatti eventually only paid Daniels half of the $300,000 advance she was owed for her book. Avenatti, meanwhile, contended at the time that no money was “ever misappropriated or mishandled” and that his agreement for representing Daniels “included a percentage of any book proceeds.”
That trial is on the docket for later this year in New York.
On Thursday, Avenatti was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison for trying to extort Nike out of as much as $25 million, claiming that he could do billions of dollars in damage with bad publicity.
U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe sharply criticized Avenatti in court on Thursday, saying that he “had become drunk on the power of his platform, or what he perceived the power of his platform to be.”
“He had become someone who operated as if the laws and the rules that applied to everyone else didn’t apply to him,” the judge said.
Avenatti, meanwhile, gave a tearful apology in the courtroom before his sentencing.
“I and I alone have destroyed my career, my relationships and my life,” Avenatti said. “Your honor, I’ve learned that all the fame, notoriety and money in the world is meaningless. TV and Twitter, your honor, mean nothing.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.