Lawyers for Avenatti, best known for representing adult-film star Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against President Trump over a hush-money deal, filed court papers Monday asking the judge to prohibit prosecutors from bringing out evidence of his spending and the debt he incurred as a result.
Avenatti’s expensive habits do not belong at his trial because motive is not necessary to the government’s case and “his general financial condition and spending habits have no bearing on his motivations under the circumstances of this case,” his lawyers Scott Srebnick and Jose Quinon argued in the filing.
The proposed evidence of his personal money matters would also create an unfair bias against the hard-charging counselor, who is outspoken on Twitter and in front of news conference microphones, the lawyers wrote.
Avenatti’s “financial condition and spending habits would unfairly prejudice the jury against him,” the attorneys said. His financial woes included a nearly $5 million personal judgment issued against him in October 2018, about five months before authorities say he tried to shake down Nike for at least $20 million; he was also in debt to well-known Los Angeles lawyer Mark Geragos, according to court records and news reports.
Prosecutors say his troubles were a driving factor when he allegedly contacted Nike, a publicly traded sports apparel company, threatening to expose employee wrongdoing he claimed to have knowledge of, if Nike did not meet his demands for a $1.5 million payout to his client Gary Franklin, a youth basketball coach, and $15 million to $20 million for a retainer agreement for him to purportedly investigate the wrongdoing.
As an alternative, he would take $22.5 million to satisfy both demands in a package deal, according to the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
“Something tells me that we have not reached the end of this scandal. It is likely far far broader than imagined…” Avenatti tweeted during the ordeal. Prosecutors said it was a precursor to what he promised to announce at a news conference should Nike not come through in response to his demands.
The episode played out in phone calls and meetings over the course of about a week in March — when Avenatti said his proposed public announcement would have a damaging effect on the company’s stock market value.
“I’ll go take ten billion dollars off your client’s market cap,” he allegedly said in a recorded call March 20.
Prosecutors are expected to respond to the motion, and Judge Paul Gardephe will rule at a later date.
Jurors called for the screening process at Avenatti’s upcoming trial in U.S. District Court in Manhattan will probably be asked what they have read, seen or heard about the high-profile defendant in news accounts.
His lavish spending and tastes have been documented in press coverage of this case and others.
Prospective jurors are also expected to be asked about their knowledge of Avenatti’s dealings in the lawsuit against Trump. The lawsuit by Avenatti on behalf of Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, was dismissed by a federal judge. She was suing over the terms of a nondisclosure agreement and $130,000 payment arranged by Trump’s disgraced former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, allegedly demanding that she keep quiet about a sexual encounter she had with Trump in 2006. Trump has denied having an affair.
Avenatti is charged in a separate federal case in New York with stealing about $300,000 from Clifford in his representation of her.
Avenatti has maintained his innocence. Prosecutors dropped two counts of conspiracy in the Nike case last month.