Michael Avenatti says he wants to plead guilty to California charges
SANTA ANA, Calif. - Incarcerated lawyer Michael Avenatti says he plans to plead guilty to charges in a federal court case in Southern California accusing him of cheating clients out of millions of dollars.
Avenatti didn’t specify which charges he wants to plead to in a brief court filing Sunday. He said he hasn’t reached a deal with federal prosecutors but wants to change his plea "in order to be accountable; accept responsibility; avoid his former clients being further burdened; save the Court and the government significant resources; and save his family further embarrassment."
Federal prosecutors have accused Avenatti of cheating clients out of nearly $10 million by negotiating and collecting settlement payments on their behalf and funneling the money to accounts he controlled. The case is scheduled for trial in July after a mistrial last year when federal prosecutors failed to turn over relevant financial evidence to Avenatti, who has represented himself in the California case with assistance from advisory counsel.
Avenatti, who is suspended from practicing law in California, pleaded not guilty to wire fraud in connection with the allegations spanning from 2015 to 2019, as well as charges including bankruptcy and tax fraud.
A hearing on the issue was scheduled for Thursday in federal court in Santa Ana.
A message seeking comment was left for the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles.
Avenatti was sentenced this month to four years in prison for stealing book proceeds from Stormy Daniels, the porn actor who catapulted him to fame as he represented her in courtrooms and cable news programs during her legal battles with then-President Donald Trump.
The sentence means Avenatti will spend another 2 1/2 years in prison on top of the 2 1/2 years he is already serving after another conviction for trying to extort Nike if the shoemaker didn’t pay him up to $25 million.