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Michael Avenatti will admit to stealing millions from clients, court papers show

The disgraced attorney wants to plead guilty to federal charges in California, according to the documents. He's already serving time for crimes against Stormy Daniels and Nike.
Image: Michael Avenatti
Michael Avenatti is seen outside the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Federal Courthouse on Oct. 8, 2019, in New York City.Alec Tabak / New York Daily News/Tribune News Service via Getty Images file

Disgraced attorney Michael Avenatti wants to plead guilty to federal charges in California and admit to stealing millions of dollars from clients, according to court papers filed on Sunday.

Avenatti, acting as his own primary counsel, said he intends to "plead open," which would allow a judge to set punishment without any plea agreement with prosecutors.

"Despite repeated efforts over the last year by Mr. Avenatti and his counsel, including substantial efforts made in the last 30 days, defendant has been unable to reach a plea agreement with the government," according to documents filed by Avenatti's advisory counsel, H. Dean Steward.

"Mr. Avenatti wishes to plea in order to be accountable accept responsibility; avoid his former clients being further burdened; save the Court and the government significant resources; and save his family further embarrassment."

A representative for federal prosecutors in California declined comment on Monday.

A change-of-plea hearing was scheduled for Thursday morning before U.S. District Court Judge James Selna.

Prosecutors allege that from 2015 to 2019, Avenatti stole nearly $10 million in settlement funds from at least five of his clients — Geoffrey Johnson, Alexis Gardner, Gregory Barela, Michelle Phan and Long Tran.

Avenatti, already in custody for crimes committed against Nike and former client Stormy Daniels, asked the a federal judge in Southern California to schedule a video hearing to accept his change in plea in this case.

Earlier this month, Avenatti was sentenced to four years in prison for pocketing money from a publisher that was supposed to go to Daniels for her book, "Full Disclosure," which included details about an alleged affair she had with Donald Trump before he was president.

Avenatti was convicted in 2020 of extortion, transmission of interstate communications with intent to extort and wire fraud in connection with threats he made against the sports equipment giant Nike.

He was sentenced to 2½ years behind bars for those crimes. He will have to serve another 2½ years in custody for the Daniels matter once the Nike time is done.