Avenatti was found guilty on counts of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in U.S. District Court in Manhattan after about two days of deliberations. He faces up to 22 years in prison and will be sentenced May 24. Avenatti was allowed to remain free to surrender himself to federal authorities in California, where he has a pending federal embezzlement case. He was previously on home confinement there.
“I am very disappointed in the jury’s verdict. I am looking forward to a full adjudication of all of the issues on appeal,” a defiant Avenatti said outside the courtroom, flanked by a team of federal public defenders who were initially set to try his case but who served as his advisers after he decided to represent himself.
At the time, Avenatti was representing Daniels as she tried to undo a nondisclosure agreement she signed through Michael Cohen, Trump’s former attorney, in which she accepted $130,000 in exchange for silence about an alleged sexual encounter with Trump in 2008. The hush money was paid by Cohen during the 2016 presidential campaign, and Cohen later pleaded guilty to campaign finance fraud in connection to it. Avenatti and Daniels went on a publicity tour in which they spoke out against Trump for allegedly pressuring her into silence.
Friday’s guilty verdict came hours after the frustrated jury sent a note to U.S. District Court Judge Jesse Furman saying one of its members was “refusing to look at evidence … and does not understand the job of a juror.” Furman reminded the panel that a jury is required to base its verdict on trial evidence. The next time a note was sent at around 2:30 p.m. it was to indicate a verdict had been reached.
Avenatti argued he was entitled to the money from the book advance. His claims were contradicted, however, by an extensive WhatsApp message history with Daniels that included repeated assurances that he was working hard to get the publisher to satisfy the terms of her contract. As he was offering daily excuses to Daniels, he was concealing that he’d taken payments for himself.