Stormy Daniels, the porn actor who was paid to keep silent about her alleged affair with former President Donald Trump, testified against her former attorney Michael Avenatti before being cross-examined by him in a New York federal court on Thursday.
Avenatti told Judge Jesse Furman he intended to spend six hours questioning Daniels ― to which the judge responded, “We’ll see,” according to Law & Crime. Avenatti was only allotted a short time before Furman adjourned for the day, but is expected to resume his questioning on Friday.
Avenatti is defending himself from charges that he scammed Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, out of $300,000 of the money she received from her book deal.
He announced Tuesday that he’d fired his attorneys over a “breakdown” in discussions over trial strategy ― putting him in position to question his former ally under oath on the stand. Until their falling out, the pair were a thorn in Trump’s side during his presidency.
Under direct examination, Daniels identified Avenatti in the Manhattan courtroom and told jurors: “I hired a new attorney because he stole from me and lied to me,” according to Reuters.
Daniels received $800,000 from publisher St. Martin’s Press as an advance for her 2018 memoir, “Full Disclosure.” She said Avenatti told her the publisher was dragging its feet on some of its payments while what he had actually done was falsify a document telling the publisher to send the funds to a bank account controlled by Avenatti. He allegedly used the $300,000 for personal expenses, including a lease on a Ferrari.
Daniels fired Avenatti in early 2019, and prosecutors filed charges a few months later.
Avenatti has said he is “completely innocent.” He says that he earned the money he took from his client, although he does not appear to have been open with her about where the money went.
On Thursday, Daniels testified that she didn’t think she could afford a lawyer at the start of her legal problems with Trump. Under questioning from Avenatti, she confirmed that they agreed to crowdsource her legal defense fund, as Avenatti would not work for free.
For a time, Avenatti became a regular commenter on cable news after stepping into the national spotlight as Daniels’ attorney, representing her when she was arrested at an Ohio strip club and as part of her multiple lawsuits against Trump.
Her case against him is just one of several Avenatti has fought in recent years; federal prosecutors also accused him of defrauding various clients and attempting to extort millions from Nike. The California-based attorney was disbarred in 2020 after practicing law for two decades.
Daniels received a $130,000 hush-money payment from Trump’s former fixer, attorney Michael Cohen, in the months leading up to the 2016 presidential election in order to keep quiet about an affair she says they had. (Trump denies the claim.) Cohen later pleaded guilty for violating campaign finance laws by making the payment and served time in prison, but not before clashing in public with Trump’s accusers.
Daniels and Cohen later mended fences: She has twice appeared on Cohen’s podcast, “Mea Culpa.”