Attorney Michael Avenatti will retain his lawyer with help from taxpayers after proving he is too strapped for cash to afford one.
A federal judge assigned to one of the three cases against the lawyer on Wednesday said he had established his “current indigency ” so attorney Dean Steward can continue to represent him.
“The bottom line is that Mr. Avenatti has run out of funds, and faces a complex trial lasting as long as six weeks,” Steward wrote in a court filing earlier this month.
Steward said Avenatti’s financial woes were so dire that he needed taxpayer help to cover his legal fees.
For a short period last year, Avenatti was represented by lawyers in the federal public defender’s office after his retained counsel departed. It was then that Steward, whom Avenatti called “incredibly well qualified,” entered the case.
“[B]ut the retainer has long since run out and defendant does not have funds to pay counsel,” Steward says.
Celebrity attorney Michael Avenatti walks out of a New York courthouse after a hearing in a case where he is accused of stealing $300,000 from a former client, adult-film actress Stormy Daniels. A federal judge was granted a court-appointed attorney Wednesday after he proved he could not afford one. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
He’s proposed to stay on as Avenatti’s lawyer and get paid under terms of existing rules for indigent clients.
“Such an arrangement would save considerable taxpayer funds, over staring fresh with new… counsel,” he said.
Avenatti, like many others imprisoned, was allowed to leave federal custody because of coronavirus concerns. Since April he’s been living in the Southern California home of a childhood friend under strict rules imposed by the court. That friend was recently forced to answer questions to determine whether Avenatti had violated those terms including impermissible use of internet-capable devices.
The disgraced lawyer faces three dozen counts of fraud, tax evasion and other alleged crimes. He was convicted in February of trying to extort millions of dollars from Nike and is also accused of bilking money from Stormy Daniels, his most famous client.
He has yet to be sentenced in the Nike case and is awaiting trial in the other two.
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