Left Menu
Development News Edition

UPDATE 4-Michael Avenatti is sued for allegedly siphoning paraplegic's $4 mln settlement

Reuters | Updated: 14-06-2019 01:28 IST | Created: 14-06-2019 01:28 IST
UPDATE 4-Michael Avenatti is sued for allegedly siphoning paraplegic's $4 mln settlement
Michael Avenatti, the lawyer who represented porn star Stormy Daniels in lawsuits against U.S. President Donald Trump, has been sued by a paraplegic former client who accused him of siphoning away a $4 million settlement he had won. Geoffrey Johnson is seeking at least $9.5 million, plus punitive damages, from Avenatti and several former colleagues in his civil lawsuit filed with the Orange County Superior Court in California.

"I never thought I would get victimized by my own attorney," Johnson, who uses a wheelchair, said at a press conference on Thursday. "I wish he had just given me my money." Johnson's claims are also part of federal prosecutors' criminal case against Avenatti, who has pleaded not guilty to wire fraud, bank fraud, extortion and other charges, including defrauding other clients, in California and New York.

"Mr. Johnson's claims are categorically false and frivolous, and his case will be thrown out of court," Avenatti said in an email. Avenatti drew national attention through his representation of Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, in lawsuits against Trump and the president's former lawyer Michael Cohen, and briefly flirted with a 2020 White House run.

SUICIDE ATTEMPTS Johnson said he obtained the $4 million settlement with Los Angeles County in January 2015 over injuries he sustained by jumping from an elevated floor in a downtown Los Angeles jail, in the second of two attempted suicides in August 2011.

He said he had mental health issues when he was wrongly arrested in April 2011, and tried to kill himself after enduring abuse by sheriff's deputies and other inmates at the jail. The June 11 complaint accused Avenatti of draining nearly all of the $4 million settlement, while paying Johnson roughly $1,900 a month to lull him into thinking his money was safe.

Johnson also said Avenatti lied to the Social Security Administration about the monthly payments, costing him needed supplemental benefits. "On a 1-to-100 scale, the despicability of his conduct ranks 1,000," Johnson's lawyer Daniel Callahan said at the press conference, referring to Avenatti. "It is off-the-charts bad."

Johnson also accused Avenatti's former colleagues Michael Eagan, Jason Frank and Scott Sims at the Eagan Avenatti law firm of covering up his activities. The firm filed for bankruptcy protection in March, and there has been litigation among its former lawyers.

Eric George, a lawyer for Frank, called him "as much a victim of Michael Avenatti as anyone else. It is regrettable that Mr. Johnson's lawyers are misdirecting their claims." Sims, in an email, said he has evidence that Avenatti "stole Mr. Johnson's settlement money," and alerted federal authorities. "We are appalled by Mr. Avenatti's conduct and hope that Mr. Johnson obtains justice against Mr. Avenatti," he said.

Eagan was not immediately available for comment. "PILE ON"

Prosecutors had in April said Avenatti diverted some of the $4 million to finance his coffee shop business and a lavish lifestyle, and gave Johnson only about $124,000. In his email, Avenatti said Johnson would have been convicted "but for my assistance," and had previously acknowledged in writing that he had always acted ethically when representing him.

He called the lawsuit "part of a 'pile on' publicity stunt to smear me." In addition to the $4 million and punitive damages, Johnson is seeking at least $500,000 for lost Social Security benefits and $5 million for severe emotional distress and other damages.

The criminal case also accuses Avenatti of trying to extort more than $20 million from Nike Inc by threatening to expose what he called its improper payments to college basketball recruits, and misappropriating from Daniels nearly $300,000 of payments for her memoir. If convicted on all charges, Avenatti could face more than 400 years in prison, but would likely face a lesser punishment. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Richard Chang, Susan Thomas and James Dalgleish)


TRENDING

OPINION / BLOG / INTERVIEW

Why COVID-19 is unstoppable in USA despite it being ranked at the top of GHS Index?

Several worst-hit countries such as Italy, France, Spain, the UK, Canada, and Russia have peaked COVID-19 cases in April. Almost all of them have gradually flattened the curve. However, the USA is setting new daily records of infections tha...

COVID-19 seems cooking biggest ever global scam

The increasing number of corruption cases on COVID-19 funds from throughout the world and involvement of high profile persons indicate that the countries cant ignore corruption in their pandemic response programs. This has generated the nee...

Health Management Information Systems lack holistic, integrated, and pandemic resilient character

Being a part of the United Nations system, the World Health Organization WHO deserves its share of rebuke for its alleged failure issue COVID-19 health emergency alerts on appropriate time. However, the pandemic has also exposed loopholes i...

Pride in the time of coronavirus: a welcome move online?

This year is different in many ways not least as celebrations are also taking place against the dramatic backdrop of a global health crisis and a resurgence in grassroots activism following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. ...

Videos

Latest News

Panga here to replace TikTok

Ludhiana Punjab India July 7 ANIBusinessWire India Centered around music, home-grown social-media app Panga is ready to fill the vacuum created in India as a result of TikToks recent ban. Within a week of its launch, Panga has gained over ...

European stocks ease from 1-month highs as rebound hopes dim

European shares fell on Tuesday as surging U.S. coronavirus cases and forecasts for a deeper-than-feared recession in the euro zone dimmed optimism around a post-pandemic rebound.The pan-European STOXX 600 index slipped 1, falling back from...

Retailers see 67 pc fall in sales during June 15-30: Survey

Retailers witnessed 67 per cent decline in business during June 15-30 compared to the corresponding period last year, according to a survey by Retailers Association of India RAI. In its latest business survey conducted on more than 100 big ...

IAS officer M Sivasankar removed as Secretary to Kerala CM's Office

After the opposition allegation over alleged nexus between Kerala Chief Ministers Office with an accused in the gold smuggling case, the state government has removed M Sivasankar from the post of principal secretary to Chief Minister Pinara...

Give Feedback