Senior U.S. District Judge James Selna of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California handed down the prison sentence to the so-called "Creepy Porn Lawyer." The magistrate also ordered Avenati to pay $7 million in restitution. Selna's ruling is a few years shy of the punishment government prosecutors sought.
Selna's verdict was based on Avenatti defrauding his clients and obstructing efforts by the Internal Revenue Service to collect federal payroll taxes from his coffee business. According to ABC News, the prison term "will run consecutively with his combined five-year sentence" over two crimes he pleaded guilty to.
Avenatti first made headlines in 2018 after he represented adult film actress Stormy Daniels in multiple lawsuits against Trump. They sued the former president and his lawyer Michael Cohen, accusing both of harassment in a bid to prevent her from divulging a purported affair Daniels had with Trump.
Of the three lawsuits filed by Daniels and Avenatti, they won the first, lost the second and settled the third one in May 2019.
Avenatti subsequently used his newfound publicity toward a presidential run, dining with potential donors and forming a political action group to accept donors.
However, Avenatti later found himself as a defendant after Daniels accused him of embezzling almost $300,000. Prior to Daniels' lawsuit, Avenatti had already been convicted in 2020 for attempting to extort as much as $25 million from sportswear brand Nike. He was convicted of swindling the adult film star of her money in February 2022 and was sentenced to a five-year term behind bars.
Back in June of this year, the 51-year-old Avenatti pleaded guilty to four counts of wire fraud and one count of tax fraud. Selna accepted his guilty plea and handed down the 14-year prison term as punishment. (Related: Anti-Trump attorney Michael Avenatti pleads GUILTY to five more crimes, could spend decades behind bars.)
"Mr. Avenatti wishes to plea in order to be accountable, accept responsibility, avoid his former clients being further burdened, save the court and the government significant resources and save his family further embarrassment," he wrote in a filing that time, while concurrently representing himself.
According to a 2019 indictment filing, Avenatti stole millions of dollars from clients after they received settlements in various cases. Those funds were supposed to only flow through Avenatti but stayed with him instead.
"Avenatti received money on behalf of clients into client trust accounts, misappropriated the money and lied to the clients about receiving the money," U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna wrote at the time.
One such case involved Geoffrey Johnson, a paraplegic who won a $4 million settlement against the Los Angeles County in 2015 after he was injured while in custody. According to government prosecutors, the compensation was given to Avenatti but did not reach Johnson.
Avenatti denied receiving the settlement amount, instead giving his client "advances" to pay rent between $1,000 to $1,900. But the prosecutors said Avenatti had been using the settlement money for personal and business expenses.
Josh Robbins, an attorney for Johnson, said back in 2019 that his client "is the victim of an appalling fraud perpetrated by the one person who owed him loyalty and honesty most of all – his own lawyer."
Moreover, government prosecutors alleged that Avenatti used money from cases to fund an opulent lifestyle instead of paying his clients what they were entitled to receive. One such instance of this corruption involved the disgraced lawyer, now disbarred in the Golden State, collecting $2.75 million in a settlement and using most of it to buy a private plane.
Watch Harrison Smith of "The American Journal" discuss Avenatti's June 2022 guilty plea and prison sentence below.