NEW YORK - Michael Avenatti, the brash former attorney for the porn actress Stormy Daniels, was arrested for allegedly violating bail by committing multiple state and federal crimes while awaiting trial in two states, U.S. prosecutors alleged in a court document released Wednesday.
Avenatti was arrested by IRS agents at a state bar court hearing, where he was facing suspension of his license to practice for allegedly stealing from a client, said Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the Los Angeles U.S. Attorney’s office.
"Completely innocent," Avenatti said as he was being led out of the courthouse Tuesday, according to the Daily Beast, which reported that the arrest occurred during a break in testimony.
Avenatti was expected to appear in federal court in Santa Ana, California, on Wednesday.
Court documents supporting the arrest lay out several schemes orchestrated by Avenatti to hide his assets from creditors and continue to live a lavish lifestyle amid debts surpassing $10 million.
"Defendant’s extensive pattern of criminal conduct and the overwhelming evidence supporting those charges demonstrate that defendant is a substantial danger to the community,” prosecutors wrote in a court document. “If allowed to remain on bond, defendant will almost certainly continue to engage in further fraudulent and obstructive conduct.”
Avenatti also is scheduled for trial next week in Manhattan federal court on allegations that he extorted Nike for up to $25 million. He has pleaded not guilty in that case.
But he also faces trial in May in Los Angeles on a 36-count indictment that includes allegations that he defrauded clients of millions of dollars, stiffed the IRS and committed bank fraud.
He has pleaded not guilty to those charges, along with allegations in a criminal case in Manhattan federal court that he ripped off ex-client Daniels of proceeds of a book deal. The second New York trial was scheduled to start in May.
The arrest of Avenatti marks a new low for the attorney who was flying high a year ago while in the spotlight championing Daniels case against President Donald Trump.
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, went to court to tear up a $130,000 hush money deal she said she made to cover up an affair with Trump before he was president.
Although Trump has denied the affair he chose not to challenge that effort, so she effectively won what she was seeking. But the president won his legal fees in successfully challenging a related defamation case that Daniels brought against him.
Avenatti had positioned himself as a Trump troll of sorts, attacking the president on Twitter frequently, and even flirted with running for president at one point.
Despite losing the Daniels defamation case, Avenatti had claimed he would eventually prevail and win her even larger lawyer fees than the nearly $300,000 she owed Trump. But Daniels hired a new lawyer to take the case and Avenatti's own criminal legal problems began with his arrest in New York in March.