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Michael Avenatti seeks COVID-19 related delay for alleged Stormy Daniels theft trial

By Adam Schrader
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Michael Avenatti seeks COVID-19 related delay for alleged Stormy Daniels theft trial
Adult-film star Stormy Daniels walks with Michael Avenatti to deliver a short statement when she exits a hearing in New York City in April 2018. Avenatti has sought a two-week delay to the trial over whether he cheated her out of her $300,000 advance for her tell-all book about her affair with former President Donald Trump. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 23 (UPI) -- Michael Avenatti, the disgraced attorney who represented Stormy Daniels in her 2018 lawsuit against Donald Trump, has sought a two-week delay to the trial over whether he cheated the porn star out of her $300,000 advance for her tell-all book about her affair with the former president.

Avenatti filed a letter to Judge Jesse M. Furman in a Manhattan federal court on Saturday ahead of the Monday trial, arguing that the use of COVID-19 masks would prevent him from getting a fair trial because witnesses would be disguised by "the veil of a face mask."

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The letter noted that the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York issued a new mask mandate on Friday that requires everyone in the courthouse to remain masked, including trial witnesses, without proof of a same-day negative COVID-19 molecular diagnostic test.

"This policy raises the specter that witnesses at Mr. Avenatti's trial will be masked during their testimony in violation of Mr. Avenatti's Sixth Amendment fair trial and Confrontation Clause rights," the letter reads.

"Accordingly, Mr. Avenatti objects to proceeding to trial under this policy and moves for an immediate two-week adjournment of the trial to Feb. 7, 2022, the date originally set by the court on Nov. 2, 2021."

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The letter claims that the Confrontation Clause in the Sixth Amendment "entitles a criminal defendant to encounter 'face-to-face' testifying witnesses."

Daniels is expected to testify during the trial and her testimony could help prosecutors prove that Avenatti cheated her of the book proceeds.

In 2020, Avenatti was also convicted of trying to extort up to $25 million from Nike and sentenced to 30 months in prison. However, he was released from prison custody to house arrest over COVID-19 fears in April 2020.

He also faces a retrial in California for allegations he stole money from other clients, making the trial Monday his third criminal trial in as many years. He has pleaded not guilty to all his criminal charges.

Avenatti began representing Daniels in March 2018 when she sought to invalidate a non-disclosure agreement after The Wall Street Journal revealed that former Trump attorney Michael Cohen had paid her $130,000 in hush money to cover up the 2006 affair ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

Cohen later pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations related to the hush-money and was sentenced to three years in prison. Trump has denied the affair with Daniels.

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