Avenatti gets judge to bar media from bankruptcy testimony
SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — Michael Avenatti, the attorney for porn actress Stormy Daniels, convinced a federal judge on Wednesday to bar the media from covering his testimony in an unrelated case involving his former law firm’s bankruptcy.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Catherine Bauer allowed Avenatti to give testimony behind closed doors in federal court in Santa Ana on Wednesday.
Avenatti, best known for representing Daniels in her lawsuit against President Donald Trump following an alleged 2006 affair, also asked the judge to seal a transcript of his testimony.
In May, Bauer ordered Avenatti’s former firm, Eagan Avenatti, LLP to pay $10 million to Jason Frank, a lawyer who claimed that the firm had misstated its profits and that he was owed millions. Frank is seeking to collect the judgment and said Avenatti isn’t sufficiently answering questions about his finances.
Avenatti said the questions he was answering behind closed doors were “completely bogus” and a “waste of time.”
He said that while the bankruptcy proceeding involves his former law firm he was being asked questions about his personal finances. The bankruptcy case only involves his former law firm and Avenatti has repeatedly said he does not owe any money personally.
“This is a complete sideshow,” Avenatti said Wednesday.
Earlier this month, the Justice Department filed court papers alleging that Avenatti made “misrepresentations” in the bankruptcy case and said his former law firm owed more than $440,000 in unpaid federal taxes.
An attorney who represented Avenatti in court on Wednesday, Hamid Rafatjoo, said the matter had been resolved. But a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles — which represent the government in bankruptcy court when there’s a debt to a government agency, like back taxes — said settlement negotiations were continuing but the debt was still owed.
Several news organizations, including The Associated Press, are seeking to unseal a transcript of Avenatti’s testimony. A hearing is set for next month.
Avenatti’s request for his testimony to be closed to the public appeared to be an about-face from his prior fights for transparency.
He has demanded Trump and his longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, reveal information about the $130,000 Daniels was paid as part of a confidentiality agreement she signed days before the 2016 presidential election that prevents her from discussing the alleged relationship, which Trump denies.
Two weeks ago, Avenatti appeared in a Los Angeles courtroom fighting to unseal a lawsuit filed by a former Playboy model against himself and a top fundraiser for President Donald Trump.
Balsamo reported from Los Angeles.