NEW YORK – There is a strong likelihood that Michael Avenatti will testify at a New York trial where the once high-flying California lawyer is accused of swindling porn star Stormy Daniels out of a book deal’s proceeds, his lawyers say.
The lawyers mentioned the likely testimony in a letter Thursday as they asked a judge to postpone his Jan. 24 trial for four months.
They cited voluminous materials they say were recently demanded by prosecutors in the event Avenatti planned to testify.
The demands were contained in a subpoena that the lawyers said identified “vast categories of documents that go to the heart of the allegations in this case, as well as defenses available to Mr. Avenatti.”
The lawyers wrote that there “is a strong likelihood that Mr. Avenatti will testify in his own defense."
They also urged the postponement on the grounds that a dramatic rise in coronavirus cases in New York in recent weeks would make it hard to get a proper cross-section of the community as jurors.
“By all accounts, the situation is only going to get worse in the coming weeks," the lawyers wrote. “Trial during this surge also compromises Mr. Avenatti’s rights to trial by an impartial jury and to be free of coercive verdicts."
Avenatti, who became well known in 2018 from frequent appearances on cable television shows when he represented Daniels in lawsuits against then-President Donald Trump, did not testify at a trial that ended early last year with his conviction on charges that he tried to extort tens of millions of dollars from Nike.
In that case, Avenatti was representing a California amateur basketball league coach when prosecutors said he threatened to use his access to media exposure to muddy the sportswear giant’s name if it didn’t pay him up to $25 million.
Sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison last July, Avenatti has managed to avoid beginning his prison term as he prepares for the book proceeds trial along with a retrial in California on federal charges alleging that he stole millions of dollars in settlement money from his clients. His first trial ended in a mistrial in August.
Avenatti, who remains under house arrest in California, had successfully cited the January trial date in the book proceeds case as an excuse to delay reporting to prison.
In October, prosecutors urged a judge to require Avenatti to begin serving his prison term.
Prosecutors declined comment Friday through a spokesperson.