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Avenatti hires lawyer to represent him in fraud case

May 15, 2019
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Attorney Michael Avenatti talks to the media outside of federal court in Santa Ana, Calif. on Wednesday, May 15, 2019. Avenatti has told a federal judge in California that he has hired a lawyer to represent him in a case alleging he stole millions of dollars from clients, cheated on taxes and committed bank fraud. (AP Photo/Amy Taxin)

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — Attorney Michael Avenatti hired a lawyer to represent him Wednesday after a federal judge rejected his request for a public defender in a case alleging he stole millions of dollars from clients, cheated on taxes and committed bank fraud.

Avenatti announced the hiring of attorney H. Dean Steward during a brief appearance Wednesday in federal court in Santa Ana.

Attorneys for both sides agreed to delay a tentative trial date another two to three months in the voluminous case and said they’ll send a new proposed date to the court. Steward said he would likely need to postpone that date further because of other cases he’s covering.

“This case will proceed promptly, but on a reasonable basis,” U.S. District Judge James Selna told the court.

Avenatti has pleaded not guilty to a 36-count indictment on charges of tax, wire and bank fraud. He has also denied a charge in New York that he threatened to expose that Nike paid high school basketball players unless they paid him up to $25 million.

Avenatti rose to fame representing porn actress Stormy Daniels in her legal battles against President Donald Trump and once considered running for president himself.

But his image was tarnished in March when he was arrested in New York and charged with crimes on both coasts. He has vowed he will fight the cases and win.

Avenatti asked for a public defender Tuesday and to delay filing paperwork to determine how much he could contribute to his defense. He cited the complexity of his finances and his legal situation, which includes handling litigation while also facing lawsuits.

Selna denied that request and on Wednesday ordered the public defender’s office to submit a bill for services provided to date to Avenatti.

Avenatti said the judge’s rejection only pertains to his request for a public defender without filing a financial affidavit.

Avenatti was represented by private attorneys at his first court appearance, but he was without a lawyer since his arraignment. Federal prosecutors asked Selna earlier this month to appoint lawyers to prevent him from postponing the case.

Prosecutors said they have 115,000 pages of documents, largely bank records, ready to share with Avenatti’s lawyer. Steward declined to comment until he has reviewed the case, adding he was hired several hours before Wednesday’s court appearance.

“We’re going to go about defending this case, and the case in New York, in a diligent, organized, competent manner — the same way that I would go about handling any case that I was involved in as an attorney,” Avenatti told reporters after the hearing. “We’re going to demand facts and evidence be presented before anyone is convicted of anything. And I am highly confident that when this process plays out that justice will be done.”

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Melley reported from Los Angeles.

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