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Michael Avenatti pleads not guilty to defrauding Stormy Daniels

Avenatti rose to fame representing Ms Daniels in her battle to be released from a non-disclosure deal regarding an alleged affair with Donald Trump.

Michael Avenatti denies the charges against him (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)
Michael Avenatti denies the charges against him (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

Lawyer Michael Avenatti has pleaded not guilty to charges that he defrauded his most famous client, porn star Stormy Daniels.

Avenatti barely spoke during his 10-minute appearance before a federal judge in New York, except to answer a few brief procedural questions. His lawyer entered the plea on his behalf on charges of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Bail was set at 300,000 US dollars. Avenatti, who surrendered to federal authorities in the early morning, agreed to have no contact with Ms Daniels while the case is pending.

Avenatti is scheduled to appear before two more judges, including one handling separate charges that he tried to extort millions of dollars from sportswear firm Nike.

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Stormy Daniels was represented by Avenatti (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, File)

Avenatti rose to fame representing Ms Daniels in her battle to be released from a non-disclosure deal she had signed regarding an alleged affair with US President Donald Trump. He made scores of appearances on TV shows criticising the president, who has denied that an affair occurred.

Avenatti was indicted last week on charges that he cheated Daniels out of 300,000 dollars she was owed for her book, Full Disclosure, which was published in October.

According to the indictment, Avenatti emailed a letter – purportedly from Daniels – to her literary agent with instructions that payments from her 800,000 dollar book deal should be deposited into an account he controlled. Prosecutors say Daniels never authorised the letter and was unaware of it.

Avenatti then used the money to pay business and personal expenses, including the costs of hotels, airfare, dry cleaning and his Ferrari, the indictment said.

The charges related to Ms Daniels are the third criminal case brought against Avenatti.

In late March, charges against Avenatti were announced on the same day in New York and Los Angeles.

In New York, he was charged with trying to extort up to 25 million dollars from Nike by threatening to expose claims that the company paid the families of high school basketball players to get them to attend Nike-sponsored colleges.

In Los Angeles, he was charged with stealing millions of dollars from clients, including much of the 4 million dollars owed to a paralysed man, along with dodging taxes, defrauding banks and lying during bankruptcy proceedings. When the charges were enhanced last month, federal authorities seized a private jet Avenatti co-owned.

Avenatti has repeatedly asserted that he is not guilty.

If convicted, he faces a potentially long prison sentence as the charges carry the potential for hundreds of years in penalties.

PA

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