Michael Avenatti being held in same cell that housed Joaquín 'El Chapo' Guzmán, lawyer says

His lawyer has requested that Avenatti be moved from the cell where it "feels like it is in the mid-40s" to general population.
Image: Attorney Michael Avenatti arrives at the  United States Courthouse in the Manhattan borough of New York
Attorney Michael Avenatti arrives at the United States Courthouse in New York on Oct. 8, 2019.Brendan McDermid / Reuters file

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By Tim Stelloh

Michael Avenatti, the one-time attorney to Stormy Daniels, is being held in a federal jail cell once occupied by the Mexican drug kingpin Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, Avenatti's lawyer said in a court filing Monday.

In a letter to a federal judge in New York requesting that his client be moved to the jail's general population, lawyer Scott Srebnick also noted that Avenatti has been sleeping under three blankets because the temperature in his cell "feels like it is in the mid-40s."

Avenatti, who faces charges of wire fraud, identity theft and trying to embezzle $4 million from a paraplegic man whom he represented, was arrested last week by the IRS on accusations that he violated his bail conditions.

Avenatti has denied the allegations against him "vehemently, every chance he gets," another lawyer, H. Dean Steward, has said.

In separate cases in New York, Avenatti has been charged with trying to extort more than $20 million from Nike. The case is expected to go to trial later this month.

Avenatti is also accused of stealing nearly $300,000 from Daniels, the adult film actress who claimed she had an affair with President Donald Trump in 2006.

Trump has denied the allegation. Avenatti has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

In Monday’s letter, Srebnick said that Avenatti was jailed last week because of unspecified "financial transactions" that prompted prosecutors to "claim he was an 'economic danger.'"

He was transferred from California to New York’s Metropolitan Correctional Center on Friday, the federal jail where Guzmán was also held during his trial last year.

Srebnick said that Avenatti was staying in the kingpin’s cell, though he offered no other details.

"He has been having great difficulty functioning," Srebnick said. "He has not been permitted to shave."

Srebnick added that he didn’t know why Avenatti’s communications had been restricted or why he had been placed under solitary confinement. Srebnick asked the judge to direct the department that oversees the jail — the federal Bureau of Prisons — to move Avenatti to the facility's general population.

The department did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Monday night.