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Prosecution completes case at Michael Avenatti fraud trial

January 31, 2022 Associated Press
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The government rested its case on Monday at a trial where jurors have heard allegations that Michael Avenatti stole nearly $300,000 in book proceeds from porn star Stormy Daniels to pay employees at his debt-ridden law firm and to cover personal expenses.

Avenatti, who is acting as his own attorney, has said he wants to call several witnesses to defend himself against wire fraud and aggravated identity theft charges. It was unclear if he would testify himself.

U.S. District Court Judge Jesse Furman sent the jury home early on Monday so he could rule on several issues related to a defense case expected to begin Tuesday morning.

Taking the stand as prosecutors’ star witness in federal court in Manhattan, Daniels told the jury last week that she had hired the California lawyer in early 2018 to represent her in her claims against former President Donald Trump.

Daniels wanted out of a nondisclosure deal with Trump so she could speak publicly about having a sexual tryst with him. Trump has denied the claims.

Prosecutors say Avenatti ended up cheating the entertainer out of nearly $300,000 of her $800,000 publisher’s advance on her tell-all 2018 autobiography, “Full Disclosure.”

When Daniels was asked her reaction when she learned in February 2019 that payments from her publisher that were made months earlier had never been passed along to her, she said she was “very, very angry. Shocked. Disbelief. Hurt, and I felt very betrayed and stupid.”

Avenatti had told her “that he would never take a penny from the book,” she added.

Among the final prosecution witnesses on Monday was Elizabeth Beier, an executive editor for Daniels’ autobiography. On cross-examination by Avenatti, Beier said only about 40,000 copies of the book were sold, well short of the 150,000 the publisher had expected.

“We lost money on the book,” she said.

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