Judge declares Michael Avenatti’s embezzlement trial dismissed in California
A California federal judge has granted the case to disgraced lawyer Michael Avenatti set aside in a case accusing him of hijacking millions of his own clients.
Judge James V. Selna on Tuesday ruled that federal prosecutors in Santa Ana did not provide evidence to Avenatti ahead of his wire fraud trial, including data from a law firm accounting software called Tabs, or Tax and Bookkeeping Solutions.
Selna has set a new trial date for October 12, as well as a pre-hearing conference for September 2, according to Meghann Cuniff, a local reporter live tweet The second of Avenatti’s four criminal trials.
Outside the courthouse, Avenatti told a group of reporters: “Today is a great day for the rule of law in the United States of America.”
Avenatti is accused of embezzling settlement funds from five clients, including Geoffrey Johnson, a paraplegic man who was injured in a Los Angeles County jail, as well as beauty blogger Michelle Phan and her partner Long Tran.
The cancellation of the trial shatters the government’s momentum in its criminal cases against Avenatti, who rose to fame as an attorney for porn actress Stormy Daniels, who fought former President Donald Trump in 2018 over a secret money deal.
On July 8, Avenatti was sentenced to two and a half years behind bars after a federal jury in New York found him guilty of instigating a plot to extort millions from Nike.
A few weeks later, the first stage of his trial in California began. “This case is about math,” Avenatti told jurors during opening statements. “This case is about how you calculate what a customer is owed after receiving their payment.”
This math-centric defense gave him the boost he needed for a new trial.
According to Avenatti’s motion to quash the August 15 lawsuit, his former office manager Judy Regnier said his former company Eagan Avenatti used two different programs – QuickBooks and Tabs – to calculate how much money a customer is owed.
The record indicates that before the trial, Avenatti requested access to the tabs data, which the government never produced. Avenatti also claims prosecutors provided a version of the QuickBooks data “although it is not clear where it came from or whether this was even the most recent version kept by the law firm.” .
Avenatti, who represented at the trial, asked the court to dismiss the indictment or declare the trial quashed. “The government suppressed this important information and failed to produce it for years despite its obvious importance and clear obligation to do so,” says Avenatti’s motion. “From this deposit, their failures continue. “
In response, prosecutors claimed that Avenatti “now claims that Tabs ‘data is critical to his defense” but “never once in numerous filings over two years has Tabs’ data mentioned even after the government specifically identified them in a previous file “. Instead, they claim, Avenatti had only requested “unhindered access” to his law firm’s servers.
The “Avenatti motion specifies, however, that the first time [Avenatti] ever asked specifically for Data Tabs was August 12, 2021, ”prosecutors added.
On August 19, Avenatti responded to government opposition, saying its defense had suffered “without access to these exculpatory documents”.
“Without knowing the precise calculations contained in both the Tabs and QuickBooks data, it is impossible to know the costs, fees, expenses and other hourly work performed in connection with each of the alleged victims,” Avenatti wrote in the file.
The next day, Selna ordered the Justice Department’s Privilege Review Team to allow Avenatti to search for financial data on Eagan Avenatti’s servers.
On Monday, the defense provided Selna with a preliminary report on the Tabs data and alleged that some of it was missing. “There are additional files that have yet to be produced,” Avenatti said in a court file. “It is currently not clear when the remaining Tabs data will be provided to the defendant.”
Avenatti claimed that the Tabs data revealed “numerous payments made to the benefit of at least two of the clients mentioned in the indictment shortly after receiving the settlements and yet the government or its expert never account of these payments “.
In a hearing on Tuesday, Selna highlighted Regnier’s 2019 interviews that refer to Tabs and said authorities were “fully aware of the importance” of the data.
Selna told the courtroom that he found no intentional fault on the part of prosecutors or the privilege review team in the withholding of documents at Avenatti, but that there were ” gaps “in the screening process.
“I find that the prejudices have arisen here in many ways,” Selna concluded.