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California judge declares mistrial in Michael Avenatti embezzlement case

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California judge declares mistrial in Michael Avenatti embezzlement case
Michael Avenatti's embezzlement trial will likely be rescheduled for October. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 24 (UPI) -- A federal judge in California declared a mistrial Tuesday in the embezzlement case against former attorney Michael Avenatti.

U.S. District Judge James Selna of the Central District of California said he made the ruling because federal prosecutors failed to hand over relevant financial evidence to Avenatti.

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He scheduled a new hearing for Sept. 2 and a possible new trial date of Oct. 12.

Avenatti was indicted in April 2019 on 36 counts of fraud, perjury, failure to pay taxes, embezzlement and other financial crimes. The indictment said he stole millions from five clients through a group of shell companies and bank accounts.

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The victims in the case include a mentally ill paraplegic who won a $4 million settlement against Los Angeles County. Avenatti is accused of having the money wired to him and hiding it from the victim for years. The charges say he used a similar method to steal $2.75 million from another client.

In a separate case in New York, Avenatti was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for his attempt to extort more than $20 million from Nike. A jury convicted Avenatti, 50, of three counts in February 2020 after he threatened to release damaging information about Nike if the company didn't pay $1.5 million to a client who had the information. He also said Nike must retain him and another person for between $15 million and $25 million to conduct an internal investigation.

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Avenatti faces charges in another case in Manhattan in which adult film star Stormy Daniels accused him of stealing $300,000 from her. He pleaded not guilty to the charges.

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Avenatti represented Daniels amid a scandal in which former President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, paid her $130,000 to keep quiet about an affair she said she had with Trump after he married Melania Trump. The scandal resulted in campaign finance convictions for Cohen because he made the hush-money payment in the days leading up to the 2016 presidential election.

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