Michael John Avenatti
February 16, 1971
|Education||Saint Louis University|
University of Pennsylvania (BA)
George Washington University (JD)
|Spouse(s)||Christine Carlin (divorced)|
(m. 2011; div. 2017)
Michael John Avenatti (born February 16, 1971) is an American attorney. He has appeared on broadcast television as well as in print as a legal commentator and representative for prominent clients including various celebrity defendants, high-ranking business executives, and Fortune 100 companies. He is also a professional race car driver, having participated in races in the United States and Europe.
Avenatti represented adult-film actress Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against President Donald Trump in an attempt to void a non-disclosure agreement she had signed. Avenatti also represented Daniels in a related defamation suit against Trump. In October 2018, a federal judge dismissed the defamation lawsuit and ordered Daniels to pay Trump's legal fees. Avenatti said he would appeal that decision; Daniels later said that Avenatti had initiated the suit against her wishes.
- 1 Early life and education
- 2 Career
- 3 Arrests and charges
- 4 Personal life
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Early life and education
Born on February 16, 1971, in Sacramento, California, Avenatti spent his early childhood in Colorado and Utah. His father was a manager for Anheuser-Busch. He moved with his family to Chesterfield, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis, in 1982, where he attended Parkway Central High School. After graduating in 1989, Avenatti attended Saint Louis University for a year before transferring to the University of Pennsylvania, where he graduated with a B.A. in political science in 1996. While in college, he worked as an opposition researcher for Rahm Emmanuel's political consulting firm.
Avenatti attended George Washington University Law School, where he graduated Order of the Coif and first in his class with a J.D. in 2000. While at GW, he worked with Professor Jonathan Turley on constitutional issues relating to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). In 2003, George Washington University Law School established the Michael J. Avenatti Award for Excellence in Pre-Trial and Trial Advocacy, an annual award given to the member of the graduating Juris Doctor class who demonstrates excellence in pre-trial and trial advocacy. Avenatti also received George Washington University's prestigious Alumni Recognition Award in 2010.
While in college and later in law school, Avenatti worked at The Research Group, a political opposition research and media firm run by Rahm Emanuel (later White House Chief of Staff for President Barack Obama, and Mayor of Chicago). Avenatti worked on over 150 Democratic and Republican campaigns in 42 states while studying at George Washington University.
After law school, Avenatti worked at O'Melveny & Myers in Los Angeles, California, alongside Daniel M. Petrocelli, who previously represented the Ron Goldman family in its case against O.J. Simpson. He assisted Petrocelli on multiple legal matters, including the representation of singer Christina Aguilera and litigation surrounding the movie K-19: The Widowmaker, and worked extensively for Don Henley and Glenn Frey of the musical group the Eagles, including in a suit brought by former bandmate Don Felder against the group and Irving Azoff.
Avenatti later joined Greene Broillet & Wheeler, a Los Angeles boutique law firm. While there, he handled a number of high-profile cases, including a $10 million defamation case against Paris Hilton which was resolved amicably by the parties before going to trial, settled an idea-theft lawsuit relating to the show The Apprentice and against producers Mark Burnett and Donald Trump, and a $40 million embezzlement lawsuit involving KPMG.
In 2007, Avenatti formed the law firm Eagan Avenatti, LLP (formerly known as Eagan O'Malley & Avenatti, LLP) with offices in Newport Beach, Los Angeles and San Francisco, California. He has since appeared on 60 Minutes three times in connection with cases he has handled. Avenatti has also served as lead counsel on a number of historically large cases, including an April 2017 $454 million verdict after a jury trial in Federal Court in Los Angeles in a fraud case against Kimberly-Clark and Halyard Health, later reduced to a $21.7 million verdict upon appeal, an $80.5 million class-action settlement against Service Corporation International, and a $41 million jury verdict against KPMG.
In 2013, Avenatti formed a company, Global Baristas, to buy Seattle-based Tully's Coffee out of bankruptcy. Avenatti first formed a partnership with actor Patrick Dempsey, but Dempsey later backed away from the venture after a short legal battle that resulted in a settlement. Since 2015, Global Baristas has been named in more than 50 lawsuits in state and federal courts for breach of contract, unpaid bills, and unpaid taxes.
In 2015, Avenatti prevailed against the National Football League (NFL) following a jury trial in Dallas. He later pursued a class-action suit on behalf of fans who showed up for Super Bowl XLV with tickets that didn't correspond to actual seats but the courts in Texas declined to certify the class.
In 2017, a Florida man named Gerald Tobin alleged Avenatti failed to pay him $28,700 for private investigatory work. As a result, Avenatti's firm was abruptly forced into bankruptcy. In various news reports, including work done by CNN, Tobin was found to be an ex-con with four decades of convictions and jail time and not a licensed investigator. Tobin's claim forced Avenatti to cancel a deposition in an unrelated lawsuit days later, raising the question of collusion between Avenatti and Tobin. The issue was resolved when the pair entered into a Non-Disclosure Agreement, and Avenatti paid Tobin the $28,700.
In 2018, Avenatti's law firm was subjected to a $10 million judgment in U.S. bankruptcy court. Avenatti has also defaulted on a $440,000 judgment in back taxes, penalties, and interest that he was personally obligated to pay under another bankruptcy settlement. The U.S. Attorney's office asserted in court that a motion seeking payment would soon be filed against Avenatti. Eagan Avenatti had been in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings and, in December 2017, had agreed to pay $4.8 million in unpaid fees to a former partner, $2 million in back taxes, and $1 million to other creditors. In June 2018, the former partner filed a motion in U.S. bankruptcy court asking for a lien on any and all legal fees Avenatti's firm might collect, up to $10 million, from clients in 54 cases including his representation of Stormy Daniels.
In November 2018, a few days after his arrest on suspicion of domestic violence, Avenatti's law firm was evicted from its office in Newport Beach after skipping $213,000 worth of rent payments. In January 2019, a former client filed arbitration against Avenatti, alleging misuse of settlement funds Eagan Avenatti LLP had received in trust.
Since 2010, Avenatti has raced as a driver in approximately 33 professional sportscar races, including various American Le Mans Series, FIA World Endurance Championship, Porsche Supercup and United SportsCar Championship races in the United States and in Europe. These races have included the 24 Hours of Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring, 2012 Petit Le Mans, and the Long Beach Grand Prix. Avenatti had been planning to race the 2013 24 Hours of Le Mans, but replaced himself with Patrick Long a few weeks before the event because scheduling conflicts had arisen with his other business interests. At the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans, Avenatti teamed up with Saudi Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Saud and Polish driver Jakub "Kuba" Giermaziak in the No. 66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari 458 Italia. The team placed seventh in its class.
- 24 Hours of Le Mans results
|2015||JMW Motorsport|| Kuba Giermaziak
Abdulaziz al Faisal
|Ferrari 458 Italia GT2||GTE
Stormy Daniels lawsuits
In March 2018, Avenatti filed a lawsuit on behalf of adult film actress Stormy Daniels seeking to invalidate a 2016 non-disclosure agreement regarding an alleged affair with Donald Trump in 2006. The non-disclosure agreement had been negotiated in the final days of the 2016 U.S. Presidential campaign. Avenatti has been a frequent guest on talk shows and cable news programs to discuss the case, logging 108 CNN and MSNBC appearances between March 7 and May 10, 2018. He also gained a large following on Twitter; he is known for ending his tweets about the case and other Trump-related matters with the Twitter hashtag "#basta"–the Italian word for "enough."
In May 2018, Avenatti released records showing multiple large payments, some from major corporations, into the bank account Cohen had used to pay Daniels. Cohen's lawyers subsequently argued that some of the transactions released by Avenatti involved a different Michael Cohen, but they did not dispute the larger deposits. The US Treasury Department opened an investigation into how Avenatti gained information from Cohen's private bank records. Avenatti had also filed a motion to join the federal investigation of Michael Cohen. The federal judge issued Avenatti "a choice" that if he wanted to join he would have to end what the judge called his "publicity tour" of TV appearances and tweets about the case. Avenatti withdrew the motion, and appeared on MSNBC that same day.
In early March 2019 Daniels terminated her arrangement with Avenatti, replacing him with attorney Clark Brewster. Later that month when federal charges against Avenatti were announced, she said "Knowing what I know now about Michael, I’m saddened but not shocked regarding his arrest."
Avenatti provided a video to MSNBC which aired on the June 25, 2018, episode of The Rachel Maddow Show, a "secretly shot" video of a child in the custody of immigration officials who was separated from her mother. The video was leaked by a former employee whom Avenatti represents. The leaked video was part of the response to the Trump administration family separation policy.
Julie Swetnick allegations
In September 2018, as the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court was being evaluated in the Senate, two women accused him of inappropriate sexual conduct while in high school or college. Avenatti then announced that he had a client who made additional allegations against Kavanaugh, as both a witness and a victim of his inappropriate behavior, and that she would soon come forward publicly. On September 25, the woman was publicly identified by Avenatti as Julie Swetnick, a resident of Washington, D.C. and a 1980 graduate of Gaithersburg High School in Maryland. Swetnick claimed in a sworn affidavit, signed under penalty of perjury, that Kavanaugh, as a high school student in the early 1980s, drank excessively and engaged in physically aggressive behavior toward girls. She said he was present at parties where girls were drugged and gang raped and that he participated in those activities. Swetnick also claims that she was gang raped at a party where Kavanaugh was present, although he did not personally participate in the attack. Kavanaugh retorted, "I don't know who this is and this never happened." September 26 the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Chairman Grassley requesting "[i]n light of shocking new allegations detailed by Julie Swetnick" that the vote be immediately canceled and that Grassley should support either the reopening of the FBI investigation or the withdrawal of Kavanaugh's nomination. In an NBC interview, Swetnick provided the names of four friends who went to the parties with her – however, one is deceased and another did not know her.
Avenatti announced that he had a sworn declaration by another woman backing up Swetnick's accusations. Subsequently, NBC news reported that the unnamed declarant told them on September 30 (before Michael Avenatti released her sworn statement on October 3 with her name blacked out) that she never thought it was Kavanaugh spiking the punch, and that she never witnessed him act inappropriately towards girls. In a text to NBC News on October 4, the unnamed accuser reiterated, "It is incorrect that I saw Brett spike the punch. I didn't see anyone spike the punch...I was very clear with Avenatti from day one," adding that she would never allow anyone to be abusive towards males or females in her presence. She also expressed that she had only given her sworn declaration a cursory look. The response to NBC news by Avenatti was that she read, signed and repeatedly stood behind the sworn declaration. The unnamed declarant contacted NBC news October 5 and reiterated her denial of ever seeing Kavanaugh spike punch or act inappropriately toward women, and charged Avenatti with twisting her words.
Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court by a margin of 50-48, mostly along party lines. Several Democratic Senators blamed Avenatti as the Swetnick accusation "gave Republicans an opportunity to shift the narrative away from Ford's allegations and make a broader case that the growing accusations of sexual misconduct amounted to an orchestrated Democratic smear campaign". Senator Susan Collins, a Republican swing vote, called the Swetnick allegation "outlandish...[without] any credible supporting evidence", and ended up supporting Kavanaugh's nomination. Senator Gary Peters said that Avenatti's allegations "turns it into a circus atmosphere and certainly that's not where we should be", while another Senate aide said that "Democrats and the country would have been better off if Mr. Avenatti spent his time on his Iowa vanity project rather than meddling in Supreme Court fights". Avenatti fired back, criticizing anonymous Democrats as "cowards", arguing that this showed "failed leadership" in the Democratic Party.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley referred Avenatti and Swetnick to the Department of Justice for a possible criminal investigation over allegations they made false statements to Congress about now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Avenatti called the referral "completely baseless."
Potential 2020 presidential campaign
Avenatti expressed interest in running for President of the United States in 2020; he started a political action committee, and held his first fundraiser at the Democratic Wing Ding in August. In September 2018, Avenatti said he would run in 2020 only against Trump or Pence.
On November 1, 2018, Avenatti released his first political ad, which urged Americans to vote on November 6, 2018; the Washington Post ranked him a top 15 contender. On December 4, 2018, Avenatti announced that he would not be a candidate for President of the United States in 2020. In a Twitter post, he announced "I do not make this decision lightly — I make it out of respect for my family."
Arrests and charges
Domestic violence complaint
In November 2018, Avenatti was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence. The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) later confirmed Avenatti was arrested for felony domestic violence and his bail was set at $50,000. An LAPD spokesperson said that the unidentified victim, later described as his girlfriend, had "visible injuries" and that the case would be referred to the Los Angeles County District Attorney for prosecution. Minutes after the reports of Avenatti's arrest, the Twitter account of Surefire Intelligence, a company created by the far-right conspiracy theorist Jacob Wohl, seemingly claimed responsibility for the arrest, tweeting a news story about it and adding "Surefire Intelligence strikes again."
Avenatti called the allegations "completely bogus" and "fabricated and meant to do harm to my reputation." Both of his ex-wives issued statements that Avenatti had never been violent toward either of them. The county district attorney declined to press charges, and referred the case to the city attorney for possible misdemeanor charges. On February 1, 2019, the city attorney's office announced that their investigation was complete, and that Avenatti would not be charged.
On March 25, 2019, Avenatti was arrested in New York City, and federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York announced that they were charging Avenatti with attempting to extort up to $25 million from U.S. athletic apparel and shoe company Nike by threatening to make damaging charges against the company. Avenatti allegedly claimed that Nike improperly made payments to families of high school basketball players. The arrest came about 15 minutes after Avenatti announced that he would be holding a press conference the next day, at which he claimed he would reveal information about a high school and college basketball scandal involving Nike. During the afternoon of March 25, Avenatti and an unnamed co-conspirator were scheduled to meet with lawyers from Nike, at which prosecutors allege he would have offered to cancel the press conference in exchange for payment. Avenatti's suspected co-conspirator was identified as Mark Geragos. Avenatti was released on a $300,000 bond that evening.
Fraud and embezzlement charges
Also on March 25, 2019, the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California, Nicola T. Hanna, announced in Los Angeles the filing of a 197-page complaint accusing Avenatti of wire fraud and bank fraud. The indictment said that Avenatti had embezzled money from a client and had defrauded a Mississippi bank by submitting false tax returns to obtain more than $4 million in loans. Prosecutors also alleged that Avenatti had not filed personal tax returns for the years in question.
On April 11, 2019, 36 additional financial crime charges were announced by the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California. Avenatti is accused of stealing money from clients to purchase a $5 million private jet he co-owned, as well as fraud related to tax documents and banking information. According to U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna, "[m]oney generated from one set of crimes was used to further other crimes, typically in the form of payments designed to string along victims." The purpose of his crimes was "to prevent Mr. Avenatti’s financial house of cards from collapsing." Vowing to "fully fight" the additional charges and appealing to the public to presume his innocence, Avenatti stated on Twitter that "[f]or 20 years, I have represented Davids vs. Goliaths and relied on due process and our system of justice. Along the way, I have made many powerful enemies."
On April 10, 2019, Avenatti was charged by a federal grand jury in Santa Ana, California of embezzling funds that his client, NBA player Hassan Whiteside, had wired to him, in January 2017, for the purpose of paying a settlement to his ex-girlfriend. Avenatti stands accused of withholding client funds and applying most of the settlement money of $1.75 million, along with his included $1 million fee, in order to invest $2.5 million in a share of a private jet. He is further accused of misrepresenting Whiteside’s settlement payment as "monthly installments, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles" which he paid out, until June 2018, totaling $194,000. Federal agents subsequently seized a Honda HA-420 twin-engine jet from Santa Barbara Airport that was co-owned by Avenatti and former client, Indigo Systems co-founder William J. Parrish, as the latter was about to embark on a flight. Parrish successfully sued Avenatti in 2017 for $2.1 million for failure to repay a 2013 loan. Avenatti had not appeared in court to defend himself, and is appealing that judgment. Avenatti denies the charges.
Avenatti was married for 13 years to Christine Avenatti Carlin, with whom he has two teenage daughters. He married Lisa Storie in 2011. They have one son. Lisa Storie-Avenatti filed for divorce in December 2017. In December 2018, according to court documents, Avenatti and his wife settled their divorce, with Avenatti agreeing to pay Lisa $80,000 in child support and to transfer ownership of several assets to her, including five luxury wristwatches valued near $50,000 each, a Frank Gehry sculpture, other artwork, and a leased 2017 Ferrari 488 GT Spider while his law firm would transfer to Lisa its interest in a 2016 Honda private jet.
- Michael Cohen (lawyer) § Essential Consultants LLC
- Michael Cohen (lawyer) § Payment to Stormy Daniels
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- Bever, Lindsey; Barrett, Devlin; Berman, Mark (April 11, 2019). "Michael Avenatti charged with stealing millions from clients, using 'ill-gotten gains' for a private jet". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 11, 2019.
- "Avenatti accused of embezzling nearly $2 million that NBA player paid ex-girlfriend". LA Times.
- "Michael Avenatti’s alleged embezzlement included payment from Heat’s Hassan Whiteside", by Des Bieler, April 22, 2019. Retrieved April 22, 2019.
- Feldman, Kate (December 5, 2018). "Michael Avenatti settles alimony, child support with ex-wife, will hand over Ferrari and private jet: report". NY Daily News.
- Folmer, Kaitlyn (December 5, 2018). "Lawyer Michael Avenatti could owe his estranged wife and child $1.5 million in spousal and child support: Court records - ABC News". ABC News. Retrieved December 14, 2018.
- Official website
- Michael Avenatti – List of Political Beliefs (August 27, 2018)
- Michael Avenatti driver statistics at Racing-Reference