Dean Steward filed a motion in federal court Saturday detailing Avenatti’s financial woes and is now asking for taxpayer help to cover his costs.
“The bottom line is that Mr. Avenatti has run out of funds, and faces a complex trial lasting as long as six weeks,” Steward wrote in a filing to the federal judge overseeing one of Avenatti’s three ongoing criminal cases.
This isn’t the first time Avenatti has run into legal or money issues in the case. For a short period last year, Avenatti was represented by lawyers in the federal public defender’s office after his retained counsel departed. It was then that Steward -- whom Avenatti called “incredibly well-qualified” -- entered the case.
"[B]ut the retainer has long since run out and defendant does not have funds to pay counsel,” Steward says. He’s proposing to stay on as Avenatti’s lawyer and get paid under terms of existing rules for indigent clients.
“Such an arrangement would save considerable taxpayer funds, over starting fresh with new … counsel.”
A detailing of Avenatti’s financial straits was also filed with the court -- but under seal from public view and for now from prosecutors as well. It wasn’t immediately clear when Judge James Selna in Los Angeles would rule on the matter.
Avenatti, like many others imprisoned, was allowed to leave federal custody because of coronavirus concerns. Since April he’s been living in the Southern California home of a childhood friend under strict rules imposed by the court.
That friend was recently forced to answer questions to determine whether Avenatti had violated those terms – such as through impermissible use of internet-capable devices.
Selna appeared satisfied with the friend’s responses, saying Avenatti’s conduct “does not merit any action at this time.”
The disgraced lawyer faces three-dozen counts of fraud, tax evasion and other alleged crimes. He was convicted in February of trying to extort millions of dollars from Nike and is also accused of bilking money from Stormy Daniels, his most famous client.
Avenatti has yet to be sentenced in the Nike case and is awaiting trial in the other two.