Michael Avenatti, the disgraced lawyer who represented porn star Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against then-President Donald Trump, is demanding a new trial ahead of his Friday sentencing for attempting to extort clothing giant Nike.
Avenatti says he deserves a new trial because prosecutors failed to tell his defense team that a key witness against him at his first trial was in fear of her life, Law & Crime reported Tuesday, adding that the former attorney said that the witness, Judy Regnier, read a “decades-old conspiracy theory” involving Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Regnier, a former office manager at Avenatti’s law firm, was called by prosecutors so they could establish that Avenatti had a financial motive in attempting to extort Nike.
Two weeks before Avenatti’s trial, she told an FBI agent she “felt threatened” by a Twitter post suggesting that the attorney may try to hurt her, a defense motion filed late Monday evening says.
“Ms. Regnier felt threatened after reading, ‘She better be careful, she might end like a Clinton witness, desperate man desperate measures,’” Benjamin Silverman, Avenatti’s lawyer, said in a footnote of a three-page letter that provided details about her alleged fears.
“The term ‘Clinton witness’ references a decades-old conspiracy theory, also known as the ‘Clinton Body Count,’ promoted by President Trump and others, that President Clinton and Secretary Clinton arranged to kill individuals with damaging or incriminating information against them,” Silverman wrote.
In the court filing, Avenatti says that federal prosecutors with the Southern District of New York never revealed what Regnier said to him before he was put on trial, adding that the statement would have been used in his defense in an attempt to try and discredit her testimony.
“It establishes a clear bias and also evidences a motive to have Mr. Avenatti convicted and incarcerated,” says the defense’s letter. “It also raises significant credibility issues. Evidence that ‘impeaches a government witness . . . is generally called Brady material.’”
That term is in reference to a landmark 1963 Supreme Court ruling that said prosecutors are required to disclose to defendants any information that could be helpful to them.
“Avenatti claims federal prosecutors in New York failed to do so — and that California prosecutors provided Regnier’s statements to him for the first time in advance of a separate trial there accusing him of defrauding former clients of millions of dollars,” Law & Crime reported.
“The government also concedes that it deliberately withheld, and continues to withhold, handwritten notes from meetings with Regnier during at least one of which she was asked about Nike and during at least two of which she was asked about Mr. Avenatti’s financial condition,” says Silverman’s letter.
“Ms. Regnier was one of only a handful of witnesses to testify for the government at trial and the government elicited testimony from her about both issues,” it continued.
Avenatti was found guilty in February 2020 on all three counts filed against him for attempting to defraud Nike for $20 million.
“I’m not f*cking around with this, and I’m not continuing to play games. And I don’t — you know, this isn’t complicated,” Avenatti told Nike representatives just before he was arrested in March 2019. “You guys know enough now to know you’ve got a serious problem.
“And it’s worth more in exposure to me to just blow the lid on this thing. A few million dollars doesn’t move the needle for me. I’m just being really frank with you,” he added. “I’ll go take $10 billion off your client’s market cap.”
U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe was asked by federal prosecutors to mete out a “substantial sentence” to Avenatti, though prosecutors indicated they agree with the probation office’s recommendation of eight years, which falls below the 11.25-to-14-year guideline range, Law & Crime reported.
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