Lawyer Michael Avenatti ordered to stay away from ex-client Stormy Daniels

Stormy Daniels speaking to the media along with lawyer Michael Avenatti outside the federal court in New York City, on April 16, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (DPA) - Attorney Michael Avenatti was ordered on Tuesday (May 28) to stay away from adult film actress Stormy Daniels after pleading not guilty to stealing nearly US$300,000 (S$414,000) from his former client.

Avenatti was arraigned on charges of wire fraud and identity theft in federal court in Manhattan and released on a US$300,000 bond.

Magistrate Judge James Cott ordered Avenatti to have no contact with Ms Daniels "except in the presence of, or through, counsel".

The embattled attorney pleaded "100 per cent not guilty" in the afternoon to separate charges that he attempted to extort Nike. The Daniels and Nike cases are being handled by different judges.

Avenatti is accused of forging Ms Daniels' signature to divert two advance payments of US$148,750 for her book, Full Disclosure.

The tell-all featured lurid details of her alleged sexual encounter in 2006 with President Donald Trump.

Avenatti is accused of spending her money on travel and a Ferrari.

"For over 20 years, I have represented Davids versus Goliaths across this nation," Avenatti said.

"I am now facing the fight of my life against the ultimate Goliath: the Trump administration. I intend on fighting these charges and I look forward to a jury verdict in each of these cases. I am confident when a jury of my peers passes judgment on my conduct that justice will be done and I will be fully exonerated."

Avenatti rocketed to fame by constantly attacking Mr Trump and his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen.

He even once toyed with the idea of running for president. Now, he's charged with federal crimes on both sides of the country.

In Los Angeles, he is accused of stealing millions of dollars from five other legal clients, failing to pay taxes and lying during bankruptcy proceedings.

Mr Scott Srebnick, an attorney for Avenatti, said that the Daniels case should be moved to Los Angeles since both cases involved Avenatti's representation of clients.

But Assistant US Attorney Matthew Podolsky said any effort to have the Daniels case transferred would not succeed. Ms Daniels' book deal was signed in New York and most witnesses live in the city, he said.

Avenatti is separately charged in Manhattan with attempting to shake down Nike for US$25 million, failing which he would go public with allegations the shoe giant made secret payments to high school athletes.

"I have trust in the system that I have devoted nearly 20 years of my professional life to. I am confident that I will be fully exonerated by a jury once all relevant evidence and documents are presented. And I look forward to a full inquiry into the motivations behind the charges," Avenatti tweeted on Monday.

He remained defiant following the hearing, taking a shot at Mr Trump and his son Donald Trump Jr.

"Anyone know when the President or Don Jr are going to be arraigned?" Avenatti asked reporters.

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