Michael Avenatti, the disgraced lawyer known for his representation of adult film star Stormy Daniels in lawsuits against former President Donald Trump, is suing the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), alleging that he was mistreated during his time in federal custody.
Avenatti is seeking $94 million, or $1 million for each day he says he spent in solitary confinement or lockdown while he was in custody at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan in 2020, claiming that the federal government is liable for intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment and false arrest, and more.
According to a copy of the filing that was sent to the BOP on Wednesday, he alleges that prison officials limited his contact with friends and family, other inmates, and subjected him to harsh conditions.
He claims that when he was taken into custody in January 2020, instead of being placed in with general population as he requested, he was placed in ’10 South’ at the MCC, an area he says is known to house terrorism suspects and the drug kingpin Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán.
Avenatti also alleges that when he asked for reading material, he was initially refused, but then he was provided with only one book — Trump’s ‘The Art of the Deal.’
By the time of his release, Avenatti had been held in solitary confinement or under lockdown for 94 days, he said he was only allowed to see the sky once.
Michael Avenatti, who represented adult film star Stormy Daniels in lawsuits against then-President Donald Trump, is suing the Federal Bureau of Prisons for allegedly mistreating him during his time in prison. He’s pictured here leaving a Manhattan federal court after being sentenced last summer to 2.5 years over a $25 million Nike extortion scheme
Avenatti alleges that when he asked for reading material while in custody at MCC, he was initially refused, but then he was provided with only one book — Trump’s ‘The Art of the Deal’
Avenatti, who shot to fame representing adult film star Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against ex-President Donald Trump, became a media darling and appeared on CNN numerous times criticizing the former president.
Avenatti, who is no longer eligible to practice law in California, is currently facing federal charges for allegedly embezzling money from clients, including Daniels.
He was convicted last year of attempting to extort as much as $25 million from Nike and sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison.
But he is not expected to begin serving that sentence until the end of February due to his pending cases in New York and California, including one schedule to begin later this month involving Daniels.
The judge presiding over Avenatti’s trial on charges he cheated Daniels of book deal proceeds twice warned prospective jurors Thursday that perjury charges could result if they don’t honestly fill out a written questionnaire, after a recent trial verdict was jeopardized by a juror’s comments about his questionnaire.
Avenatti represented Stormy Daniels in a lawsuit seeking to break a confidentiality agreement so she could speak about her alleged affair with Trump before he ran for president. He has since been charged with cheating her of $300,000
U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman included the mentions of perjury as he launched jury selection for the trial of the once high-profile California lawyer who has already been convicted in a separate trial of trying to extort up to $25 million from sportswear giant Nike.
The jurors then stood and were sworn in.
Verbal questioning of prospective jurors is scheduled to occur next week and openings statements by lawyers is slated for Jan. 24.
Avenatti, who is confined to a California residence while awaiting trial, participated in a pretrial conference Thursday by telephone before Furman left his courtroom with prosecutors and defense lawyers to explain the case to prospective jurors before they filled out questionnaires.
THE CHARGES AGAINST MICHAEL AVENATTI
The Nike case
Avenatti was charged in March 2019 with three counts; extortion, honest services fraud and transmission of interstate communications with intent to extort.
He tried to get Nike to pay him $25million and, in exchange, said he would not expose them for alleged payments to college basketball players – something that is banned.
Nike reported him to the authorities instead.
The Stormy Daniels Case
In the second case to be filed against him in New York, Avenatti is charged with identity theft and wire fraud.
He allegedly forged Stormy Daniels’ signature to steal $300,000 in payments from her book.
He represented Daniels in her fight against Donald Trump and Michael Cohen during the 2016 presidential election when they gave her hush money to keep her allegations that she’d slept with Trump quiet.
If convicted, he faces 20 years in prison.
The IRS and Justice Department Case
The most serious indictment was filed in California.
It charges Avenatti with 36 counts of tax fraud, among other crimes. If convicted, he faces 335 years behind bars in that case.
Among 90 questions, prospective jurors were asked whether they’d formed opinions about Avenatti or Daniels based on anything they’d heard or read about them.
But he was charged months later in the Nike case in New York and in Los Angeles, where he was accused of cheating clients of millions of dollars.
Convicted in early 2020, Avenatti has yet to serve his 2 1/2 -year prison sentence.
His first California trial ended in a mistrial.
Avenatti’s lawyers say he is likely to testify at the Daniels trial, where he is accused of cheating her of several hundred thousand dollars. He has pleaded not guilty.
Furman noted the importance of answering questions honestly just a week after British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell´s conviction late last month was thrown into question.
The unidentified juror who spoke in several media interviews has retained a lawyer as the judge in the case and lawyers on both sides contemplate what to do.
The juror said in media interviews that he ‘flew through’ the trial’s questionnaire and didn’t recall being asked if he’d been a sex abuse victim.
He said he told the other jurors that he suffered sexual abuse as a child, and he convinced other jurors that a victim’s imperfect memory of sex abuse doesn´t mean it didn’t happen.
Defense lawyers say the remarks warrant a new trial for Maxwell, 60, who was convicted of charges including sex trafficking and conspiracy. No sentencing date was set.
Furman also reassured more than 100 prospective jurors, spaced apart in large courthouse assembly rooms, that they may be chosen for a trial projected to last up to a month in a courthouse that has safely hosted over 100 trials since the pandemic began.
In an interview, Southern District Executive Edward Friedland said two Manhattan federal courthouses have continued to operate during the latest coronavirus, as the omicron variant rampages across the nation.
He cited the effectiveness of specially equipped courtrooms that permit witnesses and lawyers to speak without masks in see-through boxes with air filters, and large courtrooms reconfigured to serve as rooms for jurors to deliberate.
‘We’ve done 102 trials without any problem,’ Friedland said. ‘We’ve had no spread of COVID during any trials.’