NEW YORK — California attorney Michael Avenatti’s extortion trial will proceed next week as scheduled, a judge said Tuesday after defence lawyers requested a month-long delay to process 4,000 pages of documents turned over recently by prosecutors.
U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe in Manhattan denied the request after prosecutors insisted that the documents were not required to be given to the defence but were turned over as a courtesy.
The judge noted that it was a relatively small number of documents in a courthouse where millions of pages of documents are sometimes studied by lawyers in advance of trials.
The New York trial in which Avenatti is accused of demanding up to $25 million from Nike to conduct an internal investigation of the shoemaker is the first of three criminal trials scheduled for him over the next few months. Gardephe denied a request last week from Avenatti’s attorney to toss out the extortion charges.
He also is scheduled to face an April New York trial after prosecutors charged him with defrauding porn star Stormy Daniels, a former client, of hundreds of thousands of dollars in a book deal. And he faces a May trial in Los Angeles on charges that he defrauded clients of millions of dollars.
Avenatti has denied all charges and said he has been unfairly targeted by the U.S. Justice Department after publicly quarreling with President Donald Trump.
Gardephe said he’ll rule during another telephone conference on Wednesday whether to allow evidence about Avenatti’s financial condition to be shown to jurors.
Prosecutors say they’d like to show the jury that Avenatti’s debts coincided with demands he made early last year in meetings with Nike lawyers for between $15 million and $25 million.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Podolsky told Gardephe that Avenatti’s law firm would not have been able to stay in business because the firm had a $10 million judgment against it.
Defence attorney Danya Perry said prosecutors exaggerated Avenatti’s debts, particularly what the law firm owed, and she disputed claims by the government in court papers that Avenatti owed over $15 million.
“It doesn’t get close to that,” she said.
Although Podolsky insisted prosecutors needed to reveal the debts at trial to show Avenatti’s motivation to seek so much money from Nike, the judge expressed doubt.
Gardephe said: “$15 to $20 million is a very compelling motive to commit a crime even if you don’t happen to be in debt. I have to take that into account also.”
Perry said the amount of money requested for an internal corruption probe of Nike was first suggested by a Nike attorney rather than Avenatti.
Larry Neumeister, The Associated Press