Over the objections of prosecutors, attorney Michael Avenatti was granted relaxed terms for traveling to tend to his cross-country court cases and other work-related obligations by a federal judge in Santa Ana Monday.
The embattled attorney, who obtained notoriety when he represented adult actress Stormy Daniels in her legal dispute with President Donald Trump, did not want to have to get permission from prosecutors every time he had to travel out of state.
U.S. District Judge John Early ordered Avenatti to give pretrial services officials two business days’ notice before he travels out of state. Avenatti does not have to notify court officials when he is attending to his criminal cases in New York, where he is charged with embezzling from Daniels and extortion of shoe giant Nike.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Brett Sagel argued that Avenatti should get permission from federal prosecutors here so they can confirm that the travel is for legitimate business.
Early noted new bail reform laws that call for less restrictive terms while a defendant is out of custody.
Sagel also noted the State Bar of California filed a petition June 3 seeking to place Avenatti on “involuntary inactive status,” so “he may no longer be a lawyer anymore,” and that would cut down on his valid reasons for traveling outside of New York and Southern California.
Early noted that Avenatti might still have business handing off various cases in other states. Avenatti has been providing evidence in the sexual abuse case against singer R. Kelly in Chicago.
Pretrial services officials had recommended 48-hour notice before traveling, but after hearing Sagel’s appeals, Early modified it to two business days heads up.
Avenatti’s attorney, Dean Steward, told Early that his client “has traveled extensively since I’ve represented him.”
Steward said relaxing the rules “takes the burden off of everyone else.” Avenatti had sought just 24 hours notice before traveling.
“At times he has to move quickly,” Steward said. “Twenty-four hours is pretty much the standard.”
If the two-days notice turns out to be “unworkable” for Avenatti then Early said he would reconsider it.
“I’m very pleased with the outcome,” Avenatti told reporters after the hearing. “There should have never been a need for a hearing. And I’m looking forward to getting back to business.”
Avenatti was indicted in Orange County for allegedly stealing millions of dollars from five clients, including a paraplegic man who had won a $4 million settlement but only got a portion of it in payments never exceeding $1,900. He is also accused of filing bogus tax returns.
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