Celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti’s trial for allegedly extorting multi-billion dollar shoe company, Nike, is set to begin in New York, but attorneys are reportedly having a very difficult time finding a jury.
The jurors were given a questionnaire ahead of official voir dire in order to narrow down the potential jury pool, making actually impaneling a jury a less onerous task for both the prosecution and defense. ‘The questionnaire asked jurors if they have heard anything regarding Avenatti and the charges against him. It also asked if they could put whatever they’ve heard aside and decide the case fairly,” NBC News New York reported.
The answers given by some members of the jury pool were enlightening.
The New York Post reports that potential jurors are being excused left and right for lobbing pointed insults at Stormy Daniels’ former attorney, calling Avenatti a “scumbag,” a “liar,” and a “cheat.”
“Michael Avenatti is a notorious scumbag who is willing to do anything, including lie and cheat in order to enrich himself and gain public attention,” wrote one possible juror. “He should already be in prison.”
“He started to believe his own hype and thought he was above the law,” another wrote, according to the Post.
Another, claiming to be a fan of “Mr. Trump,” said that they believed Avenatti was “opportunistic.”
Both were, of course, excused.
Although it may seem unusual for jurors to know the subject of a case, U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe had Avenatti introduce himself to the 120 members of the jury pool when they walked into the courtroom on Monday.
“As they entered, jurors seemed largely unaware of Avenatti as his lawyers and others stood around him. But U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe told the potential jurors that they were being considered to decide a criminal case involving charges of extortion and honest services wire fraud against Avenatti,” per NBC News New York.
Avenatti is facing charges of attempting to extort athletic wear company Nike after a series of meetings that took place in March of 2019. After those meetings Avenatti, who may be best known for representing adult film star Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against President Donald Trump, allegedly demanded “between $15 million and $25 million from Nike to prevent him from publicizing allegations that the sportswear giant had made illicit payments to families of highly ranked high school basketball prospects.”
Nike didn’t bite.
Avenatti says he is not guilty, and contends that he is being prosecuted in retribution for attacking Trump. In Monday’s hearing, the judge addressed those claims tangentially, barring mention of Stormy Daniels and Donald Trump during proceedings.
Those that survived the first cut were questioned in person on Tuesday. Avenatti’s trial is scheduled to start Tuesday afternoon, immediately after a jury is selected, and is expected to last around two weeks. Once this trial is over, Avenatti will face charges of cheating Stormy Daniels out of proceeds from her book deal in New York in April, and charges of cheating other clients in Los Angeles in May.