SANTA ANA (CNS) – Convicted attorney Michael Avenatti is scheduled to discuss a potential guilty plea in his fraud cases in Orange County with U.S. District Judge James Selna Thursday.
Avenatti is seeking to offer a rare open plea, meaning he has no agreement with federal prosecutors.
“Usually open pleas are done because it’s a white collar case and both sides are so far apart in the loss amount you want to litigate just that, but that’s not true in this case,” Avenatti’s advisory attorney Dean Steward told City News Service. “In this case here the loss amounts alleged are pretty much not disputed.”
However, federal prosecutors “want him to confess to a whole bunch of stuff” Avenatti said he didn’t do “and wasn’t even in this indictment,” Steward said.
Prosecutors have also said they want Avenatti to waive all writs and appeals, Steward said.
Avenatti wants to jump ahead to a conviction so “the energy everyone would put into a trial will be put into sentencing,” Steward said.
The plea would be made at a separate date if it goes through, with sentencing to occur after that.
In court papers, Avenatti said he has attempted to negotiate a plea agreement without success.
“Despite repeated efforts over the last year by Mr. Avenatti and his counsel, including substantial efforts made in the last 30 days, defendant has been unable to reach a plea agreement with the government,” he said in court papers.
“Mr. Avenatti wishes to 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.”
Avenatti’s retrial would be on charges related to ripping off at least five clients of nearly $10 million in settlement funds between January 2015 and March 2019 to bail out his law firm from bankruptcy, fed off creditors and spent money on himself.
Avenatti, who catapulted to fame representing adult film actress Stormy Daniels in a nondisclosure dispute with then-President Donald Trump, was convicted earlier this year of identity theft and wire fraud in getting Daniels’ literary agent to send about $300,000 from her advance on her book “Full Disclosure,” to a bank account the attorney managed.
If the plea deal goes through it would wrap up those cases as well as tax and bankruptcy fraud charges that were originally planned to be part of a second trial.
Selna granted a motion from Avenatti for a mistrial in August 2021. Selna ruled that prosecutors failed to turn over relevant financial records to Avenatti. Selna said he did not find any evidence of intentional misconduct, but the failure to turn over the records was tantamount to an oversight and enough to warrant starting over again with a new trial.
Avenatti won the right on the eve of his trial in Santa Ana last year to represent himself with Steward acting as his advisory counsel.
Avenatti is in federal prison for stealing from Daniels and an attempt to extort as much as $25 million from Nike. In the Nike case, he was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison, and to four years in the Daniels case earlier this month, but some of that sentence will run along with the other case, meaning he has about a combined five years to serve in both cases.