Outspoken attorney Michael Avenatti, known for his past representation of adult-film actress Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against President Donald Trump, made his first appearance Monday in Santa Ana federal court in connection with charges of bank and wire fraud.
Avenatti, 48, is accused by federal prosecutors of embezzling a client’s money to pay off his own expenses and debts, including those of his coffee business.
Avenatti is facing another federal case in New York for allegedly extorting Nike, the world’s largest supplier of athletic shoes and apparel. Following his arrest last week, Avenatti tweeted receipts and other information he alleges show corruption on the part of Nike in recruiting of young athletes.
In court in Santa Ana, Avenatti told U.S. District Judge John Early he would waive his right to a preliminary hearing and requested that he not have to appear at his next hearing on April 29. The judge must sign off on that request to have the defendant’s attorney appear before him at the post-indictment arraignment.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Julian L. Andre and Avenatti’s attorney, John Littrell, said they were working on the details of a list of victims and witnesses the defendant can contact as his case progresses.
Avenatti’s remains free on $300,000 bond.
After the hearing, Avenatti made a brief statement to reporters, speaking over the shouts of a nearby heckler. A supporter wished him well as he got into a car with his lawyers.
“For nearly 20 years, I’ve represented Davids versus Goliaths as an attorney and during that entire time period I’ve relied upon the justice system and judges in courthouses just like this,” Avenatti said. “I will now spend the time in connection with this case and the case in New York relying on that same justice system that I have subjected myself to, and I am highly confident that when the process plays out that justice will be done.”
In the Orange County case, Avenatti is accused of misappropriating funds due to a client arising from a $1.6 million settlement, prosecutors said. Avenatti allegedly used some of the money to pay expenses for Global Baristas US LLC, which operated Tully’s Coffee stores in California and Washington state, prosecutors said.
Avenatti is also accused of defrauding a bank in Mississippi to get three loans for a total of $4.1 million for his law firm by submitting bogus income tax returns for 2011, 2012 and 2013, years in which he did not file tax returns, prosecutors allege.
Avenatti is best known for representing Daniels, who became embroiled in a legal battle with Trump over hush money she received in response to her allegations of an affair they had more than a decade ago.
Avenatti no longer represents her.