Avenatti trial: Stormy Daniels seeks to block ‘irrelevant’ questions as former lawyer drops defence team

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Avenatti trial: Stormy Daniels seeks to block ‘irrelevant’ questions as former lawyer drops defence team
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Michael Avenatti has been granted permission to represent himself at his own trial in Manhattan, setting the stage for him to directly confront his former client Stormy Daniels if and when she takes the stand.

As he left the courthouse on Tuesday, Avenatti said he felt comfortable representing himself. “I’m a trial lawyer. It’s what I’ve done for two decades. It’s my arena,” he said.

Avenatti, a California lawyer, is accused of stealing $300,000 of the money Daniels was owed for her autobiography. He is also charged with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Avenatti became well known nationally in 2018 as he represented Daniels in lawsuits against Donald Trump. He was briefly something of a hero for many anti-Trumpers, but come 2020 he began a spectacular fall from grace that saw him sentenced to jail for trying to extort Nike out of millions of dollars.

Key Points

  • Michael Avenatti’s feud with Stormy Daniels in trial: What happened between the two?

  • Avenatti cast as thief and generous lawyer at criminal trial

  • Michael Avenatti to cross-examine Stormy Daniels at his own trial

07:14 , Stuti Mishra

Good morning, and welcome to The Independent’s live coverage of the Michael Avenatti trial in Manhattan for Wednesday 26 January.

Michael Avenatti’s feud with Stormy Daniels in trial: What happened between the two?

07:54 , Stuti Mishra

The relationship between Stormy Daniels and Michael Avenatti seemed to be solid in the spring of 2018 when they appeared outside a Manhattan court hearing concerning raids at the home and office of Michael Cohen, Mr Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer.

Mr Avenatti started considering running for president after becoming popular as an outspoken critic of Mr Trump on cable news.

Ms Daniels later signed a book deal, with Mr Avenatti writing the forward to the end result Full Disclosure, which was published in the autumn of 2018. In the book, Ms Daniels wrote about the alleged sexual encounter with Mr Trump and the communications that followed.

Later, Mr Avenatti was charged in three criminal cases about half a year after the book was released. One of the cases was the alleged fraud against Ms Daniels.

Here’s the full story:

Anti-Trump lawyer Avenatti’s feud with Stormy Daniels goes to trial: What happened?

Avenatti cast as thief and generous lawyer at criminal trial

08:10 , Stuti Mishra

California lawyer Michael Avenatti stole nearly $300,000 in book proceeds from porn star Stormy Daniels a prosecutor told jurors as the once high-flying attorney’s third criminal trial in two years began Monday.

Mr Avenatti has insisted he is innocent of wire fraud and aggravated identify theft charges and his lawyers say he is likely to testify during the trial in Manhattan federal court.

Assistant US Attorney Andrew Rohrbach told jurors that Mr Avenatti lied repeatedly to steal nearly $300,000 from Daniels, whom Mr Avenatti represented in 2018 in lawsuits against ex-President Donald Trump

“This is a case about a lawyer who stole from his client, a lawyer who lied to cover up his scheme. That lawyer is the defendant Michael Avenatti,” Mr Rohrbach said as he pointed at the 50-year-old on trial.

Defence attorney Andrew Dalack said his client didn’t steal any money and had a fee agreement to share any money from the book deal.

Read the full story:

Avenatti cast as thief and generous lawyer at criminal trial

Michael Avenatti to cross-examine Stormy Daniels at his own trial

08:25 , Stuti Mishra

Michael Avenatti is set to cross-examine Stormy Daniels at his own trial after ditching his legal team.

Mr Avenatti, who represented Ms Daniels when she sued former President Donald Trump, dismissed his public defenders in court on Tuesday.

He will now represent himself against the charges that he pocketed cash meant for Ms Daniels.

Mr Avenatti is now set to cross-examine Ms Daniels when she testifies on Wednesday.

Gustaf Kilander has the full story:

Avenatti to cross-examine Stormy Daniels at his own trial after ditching legal team

Avenatti says representing himself gives him the ‘the best chance at winning'

08:52 , Stuti Mishra

As Michael Avenatti left the courthouse on Tuesday after being granted permission to represent himself at his own trial in Manhattan, he told reporters the decision gives him “the best chance at winning”.

“I’m a trial lawyer. It’s what I’ve done for two decades. It’s my arena. It’s where I’m most at home. And I think it gives me the best chance at winning,” he told reporters.

“I am completely innocent in this case. It should have never been brought. And I’m hopeful that the jury at the end of the case is going to agree.”

Courtroom sketches from the trial of Michael Avenatti

09:50 , Stuti Mishra

A look at some courtroom sketches from the trial of Michael Avenatti.

Former attorney Michael Avenatti, representing himself, questions witness Judy Regnier during his criminal trial at the United States Courthouse in the Manhattan borough of New York City on Tuesday (REUTERS)
Former attorney Michael Avenatti, representing himself, questions witness Judy Regnier during his criminal trial at the United States Courthouse in the Manhattan borough of New York City on Tuesday (REUTERS)
Former attorney Michael Avenatti asked to represent himself during his criminal trial on Tuesday (REUTERS)
Former attorney Michael Avenatti asked to represent himself during his criminal trial on Tuesday (REUTERS)
Judy Regnier, a paralegal who also handled finances at Avenatti’s California-based plaintiff’s firm before it collapsed (REUTERS)
Judy Regnier, a paralegal who also handled finances at Avenatti’s California-based plaintiff’s firm before it collapsed (REUTERS)
Defense attorney Andrew Dalack speaks during opening statements in the criminal trial of former attorney Michael Avenatti (REUTERS)
Defense attorney Andrew Dalack speaks during opening statements in the criminal trial of former attorney Michael Avenatti (REUTERS)
Assistant US  Attorney Andrew Rohrbach points to former attorney Michael Avenatti during his criminal trial (REUTERS)
Assistant US Attorney Andrew Rohrbach points to former attorney Michael Avenatti during his criminal trial (REUTERS)

Catch up: Avenatti’s $94m case against the US

10:30 , Andrew Naughtie

Along with the trial now underway in New York, Michael Avenatti is fighting a very different legal battle: a lawsuit he’s brought against the US government over his treatement in jail.

Mr Avenatti is suing the government for $94m, claiming $1m in compensation for each day he says he was held in 24-hour solitary confinement or lockdown. According to his lawyers, he was treated very differently from other prisoners and was only allowed one book to read: Donald Trump’s Art of the Deal.

Jade Bremner has the story:

Michael Avenatti sues for $94m claiming he’s been tormented by Trump’s book in jail

Avenatti: Michael Cohen wants to be me

11:14 , Andrew Naughtie

Michael Avenatti may have fallen out with Stormy Daniels (to put it mildly), but his number one personal enemy remains Michael Cohen, the former personal lawyer to Donald Trump who facilitated the hush money payment Ms Daniels received.

Leaving court on Monday, Mr Avenatti delivered a rant explaining why he holds Mr Cohen in such contempt.

What happened between Michael Avenatti and Nike?

12:00 , Andrew Naughtie

It’s been nearly two years since Michael Avenatti was convicted of trying to extort sportswear giant Nike for $25m via threats of unflattering media exposure. He was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison for the crime, but has yet to report to prison pending a retrial in a separate fraud case against him that originally ended in a mistrial.

Here’s a report on a New York judgment last year that urged Californian authorities to get Mr Avenatti’s sentence underway.

Prosecutors urge prison for Michael Avenatti in Nike case

How Stormy Daniels made up with Michael Cohen

12:40 , Andrew Naughtie

While the Daniels-Avenatti courtroom duel is only now beginning in earnest, the story of Stormy Daniels’s relationship with Donald Trump and its fallout has been through myriad twists and turns – not just making bitter enemies out of erstwhile allies, but bringing together people who once found themselves at loggerheads.

One of the more remarkable moments came last year when Ms Daniels appeared on the Mea Culpa podcast hosted by the ex-Trump lawyer who paid her for her silence, Michael Cohen. In their hatchet-burying interview, Mr Cohen told her: “Both of our stories will be forever linked with Donald Trump but also with one another. Thanks for giving me a second chance.”

Take a look back here:

Stormy Daniels and Michael Cohen, once foes, talk Trump

When Michael Avenatti considered running for president

13:15 , Andrew Naughtie

Before his reputation crashed and burned in legal disaster, Michael Avenatti was a hero for anti-Trumpers everywhere – and some of them even thought he could’ve been a credible presidential candidate in 2020. He ultimately decided not to run, wisely as it turned out, but here’s a flashback to a very different time in his career...

What Stormy Daniels has written about Donald Trump

14:00 , Andrew Naughtie

The case against Mr Avenatti centres on accusations he took $300,000 that Ms Daniels earned from Full Disclosure, a memoir she published in the fall of 2018. In that book, she gave an extremely detailed account of her encounters with the then-president – a description that The Independent’s Andrew Griffin described as “a variety of shocking, bizarre – and mostly unverifiable – claims”:

Trump's bizarre comments about Ivanka aren't even the weirdest bit of the Stormy Daniels book

Daniels tries to block “irrelevant” questions from Avenatti that could lead to “unfair prejudice"

14:40 , Andrew Naughtie

The US District Attorney for the Southern District of New York last night wrote to the judge overseeing the Avenatti trial to request that the defendant be stopped from asking about various other matters in Ms Daniels’s life, including her past legal representation, payment of back taxes and child support, and various cases in which Avenatti represented her.

The letter is a sign that the prosecution expect Avenatti to fight hard as he defends himself. Specifically, it requests:

“...that the Court preclude certain Defense Exhibits and cross-examination of Stephanie Clifford, a/k/a “Stormy Daniels,” on particular topics because they are irrelevant and their probative value is substantially outweighed by a danger of unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, misleading the jury, and wasting time.”

Read the document here.

Wrapping up

14:42 , Andrew Naughtie

We’ll return for live coverage of the Avenatti trial as events develop. Stay tuned.

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