The trial involving disgraced lawyer and media darling Michael Avenatti and adult film star Stormy Daniels was always going to be explosive, especially with Avenatti representing himself. But things took an odd turn on Friday when Avenatti had the chance to cross-examine Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.
Avenatti represented Daniels when she sued then-President Donald Trump and his former fixer, Michael Cohen. He is now accused of stealing $300,000 from her when he represented her.
On Friday, Avenatti attempted to trip up Daniels over public comments she made about him while he represented her. Avenatti reportedly asked Daniels, “Didn’t you tell the New York Times that watching me work was like watching the Sistine Chapel painted?”
Daniels responded quickly: “That’s what you told me to say.”
In another bizarre exchange, Avenatti asked Daniels about her interest in paranormal activity and claims that she can speak with the dad.
Avenatti asked Daniels about a claim she made years earlier about a “dark entity” entering her through a “portal.”
“That’s what I was told by a medium,” Daniels responded, according to The New York Times.
Avenatti also asked Daniels about her belief that she could see and speak to the dead.
“How do you speak with the dead?” Avenatti asked at one point.
“I don’t know,” Daniels responded. “It just happens sometimes.”
The Times also reported:
Ms. Daniels acknowledged having said as much, adding that she was part of a project called “Spooky Babes” that focused on paranormal activity.
Continuing his cross-examination on Friday, Mr. Avenatti quickly returned to the topic, asking Ms. Daniels about “unexplainable and frightening experiences” in her New Orleans home — including “poltergeist” phenomena, “shadow figures,” and sounds and voices invading her life like a “predatory animal” — that had been cited on the “Spooky Babes” website.
Ms. Daniels acknowledged saying that a friend had physically attacked her after the “dark entity” entered her home, and that she had seen in her kitchen an image of a woman crying over a dead child.
The Daily Wire reported on Thursday that Avenatti informed Judge Jesse Furman that he would be invoking his Sixth Amendment right to represent himself, following what he described as a “breakdown in the relationship between me and my counsel that goes to the heart of my ability to mount a defense.”
“I make this decision knowingly and voluntarily,” he added.
“It’s my arena. It’s where I’m most at home. And I think it gives me the best chance at winning,” Avenatti continued. “I am completely innocent.”
The case stems from Avenatti’s 2019 arrest for allegedly embezzling nearly $300,000 from Daniels after she wrote a book about her relationship with Trump.
“This is a case about a lawyer who stole from his client. A lawyer who lied to cover up the scheme,” assistant attorney Andrew Rohrbach said, according to The Guardian.
“The defendant stole almost $300,000 from the person he was supposed to be looking out for,” Rohrbach added.
This is not Avenatti’s first or only crime. In July 2021, he was sentenced to 30 months in prison for trying to extort $25 million from Nike.
“Mr. Avenatti’s conduct was outrageous. He hijacked his client’s claims, and he used those claims to further his own agenda — which was to extort millions of dollars from Nike to enrich himself,” Judge Paul Gardephe said at the time. “Mr. Avenatti had become drunk on the power of his platform, or what he perceived the power of his platform to be. He had become someone who operated as if the laws and rules that apply to everyone else didn’t apply to him.”
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