Adult film actress Stormy Daniels (Stephanie Clifford) and Michael Avenatti, attorney for Stormy Daniels, speak to the media after a hearing related to Michael Cohen.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images
Federal prosecutors in California said Wednesday that disgraced lawyer Michael Avenatti was dramatically arrested for bail violations a day earlier because he had allegedly committed new crimes while out on bail for three separate federal criminal prosecutions.
Details of those alleged crimes are expected to be revealed later Wednesday as Avenatti, who is in custody, faces a bail revocation hearing in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana, California.
Avenatti, 49, was arrested by IRS criminal investigation agents Tuesday evening in Los Angeles in the middle of a State Bar Court hearing to discuss the possible involuntary suspension of his law license for allegedly ripping off a client for more than $800,000.
Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the Los Angeles U.S. Attorney’s Office, told CNBC that Avenatti was taken into custody after committing new crimes. Avenatti already was being prosecuted by that office for allegedly stealing millions of dollars from legal clients.
Also Wednesday, Avenatti lost a bid to dismiss criminal charges in one of two federal criminal cases he faces in New York City, where he is accused of trying to extort Nike for more than $20 million.
A Manhattan federal judge’s ruling rejecting Avenatti’s motion to toss the Nike extortion case paves the way for the ardent foe of President Donald Trump and former attorney for porn star Stormy Daniels to begin his trial in that case next Tuesday — the same day Trump’s impeachment trial is expected to begin the Senate.
The Nike case is just one of the three federal criminal prosecutions Avenatti currently faces. Before that, however, Avenatti is due to appear later Wednesday in federal court in Santa Ana, California, for a hearing about his purported bail violation.
Federal prosecutors in California are “seeking to revoke Mr. Avenatti’s bond and have him detained,” according to a filing by Avenatti’s lawyers with the judge in Manhattan on Wednesday.
Judge Paul Gardephe, in a pointed order on Wednesday, told prosecutors, “The Government is directed to submit a letter forthwith explaining why it was necessary to arrest Michael Avenatti on a bail violation a week before his trial is scheduled to begin” in New York.
“The Government will likewise set forth, from its perspective, what effect the arrest and proceedings in California will have on the trial date,” for the Nike case, the judge wrote.
Avenatti’s bail terms, which included a $300,000 personal recognizance bond, required him to limit his trial to certain parts of California, New York and Florida unless he received permission from Pretrial Services officials.
In the Nike case, Avenatti is accused of trying to shake down the athletic apparel giant by threatening to expose alleged evidence of bribing amateur basketball players and their families unless the company paid up. Avenatti has pleaded not guilty in that and the other cases, and has claimed he is the victim of politically motivated prosecutions as a result of “animus” toward him by Trump.
Gardephe, in a ruling Wednesday, noted that Avenatti has moved to dismiss all three counts of the … Indictment on the grounds that “that he was targeted for prosecution in this case for unconstitutionally vindictive and selective reasons.”
Gardephe, in dismissing that motion, said that prosecutors have “broad discretion” to enforce criminal laws.
The judge also wrote that “although Avenatti has proffered ample evidence of the animosity President Trump feels towards him, Avenatti has not offered any evidence suggesting that that animosity played any role in the U.S. Attorney’s decision to prosecute him.”
The judge added: “Avenatti is being prosecuted for activities wholly unrelated to the political arena.”
Avenatti is separately is charged in the same Manhattan courthouse with scamming Daniels out of $300,000 in proceeds from of a book deal. A trial in that case is set to begin April 21.
In the California case that is the subject of the bail violation claim, Avenatti is charged in a 36-count indictment accusing him of tax crimes, wire fraud and perjury.
IRS investigators alleged that Avenatti had stolen money through a “tangled financial web of lies” and used it “to fund a lavish lifestyle which had no limits.”
Prosecutors claim that Avenatti hid and then spent a $4 million legal settlement obtained in January 2015 in favor of a mentally ill paraplegic client, and hid a $2.75 million settlement for another client that Avenatti allegedly used to help pay for his share of the purchase of a private jet valued at up to $5 million.
Avenatti’s trial in California is scheduled to begin in May.
Avenatti first gained national notoriety in 2018 for his representation of Daniels.
Trump’s then-personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen paid Daniels $130,000 in hush money shortly before the 2016 presidential election to keep her quiet about her allegations of a fling with Trump, but details of the payment emerged a year after Trump won the White House.
Avenatti became a leading antagonist to Trump and Cohen, and before his arrest had flirted with a run for the presidency in 2020.
Trump denies having had sex with Daniels, but reimbursed Cohen for the $130,000 that was paid to the adult film actress.
Cohen later pleaded guilty to multiple crimes, including campaign finance violations related to the Daniels payoff and a $150,000 hush money payment by the publisher of The National Enquirer to another purported Trump paramour, Playboy model Karen McDougal. Cohen is serving a three-year federal prison term.
Trump also denies having McDougal’s claims of an affair with him.