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'He stole from me' – Stormy Daniels testifies at her ex-lawyers trial

Image source, Reuters

Porn actress Stormy Daniels has taken the stand in the federal trial against Michael Avenatti, her ex-lawyer who is now accused of defrauding her.

Mr Avenatti represented her when she publicly described an alleged affair with Donald Trump, breaking a non-disclosure deal with Mr Trump’s lawyer.

Prosecutors say that he withheld funds owed to Ms Daniels for her book deal. He is representing himself and will grill his former client on the stand.

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Mr Avenatti has denied the charges.

Appearing in a Manhattan court house on Thursday, Ms Daniels told the court: “I hired a new attorney because he [Mr Avenatti] stole from me and lied to me.”

Prosecutors allege that Mr Avenatti – who leveraged his representation of Ms Daniels into a reputation as a top Trump critic – pilfered almost $300,000 (£225,000) from his former client.

Speaking from inside a glass box with a filter due to Covid precautions, she identified Mr Avenatti as “the gentleman standing up in the blue shirt”.

She testified that she hired Mr Avenatti in 2018 to represent her in her public claims about a sexual relationship with Mr Trump before he became president. Mr Trump has denied any sexual relationship with her.

Ms Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, was paid $130,000 days before the presidential election by Mr Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, in order to keep quiet.

Mr Avenatti represented her in her successful bid to throw out the non-disclosure agreement.

On the stand, she said that she paid Mr Avenatti $100 as a retainer to serve as her lawyer. She testified that he used the money to pay for their lunch in Los Angeles.

A crowdfunding website was later used to raise $650,000 to pay for Mr Avenatti’s services, but she said that no formal agreement was ever made to pay him more than $100.

Mr Avenatti has denied her claim, saying that it was always agreed that he would share in future profits off her book and any other ventures. He has pleaded not guilty to wire fraud and identity theft.

“When it came to a book deal, movie or documentary, we would discuss it later,” Ms Daniels told the court.

She described herself as a writer, director and actress who is currently producing a programme about ghosts.

Mr Avenatti told the court that he plans to question her for six hours on the stand.

On Tuesday, he dismissed his lawyers over disagreements and decided to represent himself.

During Mr Trump’s presidency, Mr Avenatti became a fixture on cable news and was even rumoured to be considering a run for US president.

Separate to his fraud case with Ms Daniels, he is also appealing a two year prison sentence for defrauding Nike.

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