Trump Critic Avenatti Seeks $94 Million Over Treatment in Jail
(Bloomberg) -- Michael Avenatti, an attorney convicted of trying to extort money from Nike Inc., is seeking $94 million from the U.S. government for what he says was a corrupt plot by former President Donald Trump to have him thrown into solitary confinement as political payback.
Avenatti suffered physical and emotional distress after being locked up for weeks in a Manhattan cell reserved for terrorists and other national security threats, he said in a Thursday filing with the U.S. Justice Department. Avenatti was found guilty in the Nike case and sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison, though he continues to deny wrongdoing.
Trump “fixated” on Avenatti as a “burgeoning threat to his presidency and re-election campaign” after the California attorney sued Trump on behalf of a porn star, Stormy Daniels, who received payments from the real-estate tycoon before the 2016 election to keep quiet about their alleged affair, according to the filing.
Avenatti seeks $1 million for each day that he was allegedly held in solitary. He also claims former Attorney General William Barr joined the alleged plot to bully him.
Avenatti, whose sentence in the Nike case was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, is scheduled to report to prison next month, though he is seeking a new trial based on what he claims was the government’s failure to hand over exculpatory evidence.
He faces another trial later this month for allegedly stealing a book advance from Daniels, whose claim against Trump gave the lawyer a national profile. Avenatti denies wrongdoing, while Daniels calls him a thief.
After Avenatti was arrested in the Nike case and taken to the Manhattan detention center, he was placed in “10 South,” the most restrictive part of the facility, according to the filing. He described it as a half dozen cells “designed to hold the nation’s most dangerous criminals.”
“He was housed alongside four accused terrorists and a former CIA employee accused of treason,” Avenatti lawyer Zachary Margulis-Ohnuma said in the filing. “There was no plausible security reason for housing claimant in 10 South.”
In California, Avenatti also is charged with ripping off numerous clients of his law firm, though that criminal case ended in mistrial last year. He’s now seeking to have that indictment dismissed for what he describes as prosecutorial misconduct. A hearing on that matter is scheduled for March 10 in federal appeals court in San Francisco.
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