© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Former attorney Michael Avenatti, representing himself, cross-examines witness Stormy Daniels during his criminal trial at the United States Courthouse in the Manhattan borough of New York City, U.S., January 27, 2022 in this courtroom sketch.
By Luc Cohen
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Fallen lawyer Michael Avenatti continued cross-examining porn actress Stormy Daniels on Friday at his trial on charges he defrauded his former client, in a courtroom clash between the pair who once took on former U.S. President Donald Trump.
Prosecutors say Avenatti, 50, embezzled nearly $300,000 in book proceeds intended for Daniels while working as her lawyer. Avenatti, who has pleaded not guilty to wire fraud and identity theft, has portrayed the dispute as a disagreement over legal fees that has no place in criminal court.
The brash lawyer, who is representing himself in the federal criminal court case in Manhattan, cross-examined Daniels https://www.reuters.com/world/us/porn-star-stormy-daniels-testifies-against-fallen-lawyer-michael-avenatti-2022-01-27 for around 10 minutes on Thursday before the jury was dismissed for the day. He has estimated that he will need around six hours for cross-examination.
Avenatti and Daniels, whose given name is Stephanie Clifford, rose to fame in 2018 when she retained him to help her get out of a nondisclosure agreement with Trump.
Daniels is known for receiving $130,000 in hush money from former Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen to keep quiet before the 2016 election about sexual encounters she said she had with Trump. The former president has denied having sex with Daniels.
Testifying as a prosecution witness on Thursday, Daniels said she raised concerns with Avenatti after a third advance payment for $175,000, due in October 2018, did not arrive in her account. Prosecutors displayed text messages in which Avenatti told her he would demand payment from the publishing company.
But Daniels said the company told her in February 2019 that it had already released the payment to a trust account Avenatti had set up in her name. Daniels said Avenatti never told her about that account nor that the funds would be going there.
“He lied to me almost every day for five months,” she said.
Daniels described herself as a writer, director and actress currently at work on a television show about paranormal activity. Avenatti was widely expected to use her interest in ghosts to argue her testimony was unreliable.
He asked her on Thursday about her claims she had “the ability to see and speak to dead people.”
“Yes, I’ve said that,” Daniels replied.
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