In a court hearing Wednesday, Michael Avenatti, the embattled former lawyer of porn star Stormy Daniels, was confirmed to have been involved in yet another controversial, high-profile case: the NXIVM “sex cult” case involving the heiress of the Seagram’s fortune, Clare Bronfman, and former “Smallville” star Allison Mack (pictured above). Also involved in the case is Avenatti’s alleged “co-conspirator” in the Nike “shakedown” federal case, Mark Geragos, one of the lawyers representing “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett.
The hearing was held in response to two federal lawsuits filed against Avenatti, one of which involved an unnamed co-conspirator, who multiple reports say is Geragos. Both celebrity attorneys, it was confirmed Wednesday, had represented Bronfman. Avenatti’s role appears to have been brief and came just a few days before he was charged for allegedly trying to extort millions of dollars from Nike. Geragos continues to represent Bronfman.
“U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis ordered today’s hearing following twin criminal complaints filed Monday against Avenatti in New York and California,” Courthouse News reported Wednesday. “… Garaufis ordered Bronfman, co-defendant Keith Raniere [the leader of NXIVM] and all of their attorneys to appear in court this afternoon.”
“Based on your review of the government’s letter, are you aware that according to attorney Mark Agnifilo, the individual referred to in the complaint as CC-1 is your attorney, Mark Geragos?” Judge Garaufis asked Bronfman, referring to a letter from Agnifilio, Raniere’s attorney.
Bronfman’s representative Donna Newman responded by downplaying the claims against Geragos as hearsay. The judge then asked specifically if Avenatti is representing Bronfman. “Did she retain Mr. Avenatti to represent her in this case, yes or no?” Garaufis asked, prompting Bronfman’s team to confer, at which point Bronfman appears to have blacked out, dramatically ending the Wednesday hearing.
When the hearing reconvened Thursday, Bronfman told the court that Avenatti had briefly served as “a consultant” on the case but no longer had “any role in either that case, or in a civil matter pending in upstate New York where he also had served as a consultant, according to Bronfman and her other attorney, Donna Newman,” CNBC reports.
Newman informed the court in a letter Thursday that Avenatti had been brought in by Geragos as a consultant for just a “matter of days” and for a “limited” purpose. “The exact nature of [Avenatti’s] representation was not formalized or documented,” wrote Newman, CNBC reports. “His services on her behalf with any action have been terminated,” the letter states.
CNBC reports that Geragos and Avenatti met with prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York on March 19 to discuss Bronfman’s criminal case; what was discussed is unknown. Bronfman has been charged with alleged identity theft and money laundering connected to NXIVM, CNBC reports.
While NXIVM co-founder Nancy Salzman has pleaded guilty to racketeering, actress Allison Mack and Salzman’s daughter Lauren Salzman have pleaded not guilty to charges brought against them. As The Daily Wire has reported, Mack has been accused of leading Raniere’s alleged “sex slave” cult within NXIVM, which allegedly involved luring women into the secret society and coercing them into having sex with Raniere through blackmail information, humiliating photos, and other psychological means.