A New York federal judge on Wednesday refused to bar the mention of faded adult film star Stormy Daniels and her hush money dispute with President Donald Trump from the extortion trial of her embattled former mouthpiece Michael Avenatti. The judge has ordered the Nike trial to commence Monday.
The protests of a spirited but eventually frustrated prosecutor — Daniel Richenthal — were overruled by U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe during a hearing that set some boundaries for a Manhattan trial slated to last up to three weeks.
Richenthal insisted it would politicize the trial if Daniels and Trump were mentioned to jurors by lawyers trying to explain why Avenatti is famous.
The judge said nothing would make him happier than to keep the names out of a trial pertaining to allegations that Avenatti tried to extort between $15 million and $25 million from apparel giant Nike.
“But I can’t pretend there was sort of an immaculate conception here where Mr. Avenatti suddenly became this incredibly public lawyer magically,” Gardephe said.
The judge said he tried to think during a 20-minute break in the nearly five-hour hearing of a lawyer with more notoriety and could not.
“We’re deeply troubled,” Richenthal said. “This case has nothing to do with politics in any way, shape or form.”
Avenatti, 48, represented Daniels in a lawsuit seeking to break a confidentiality agreement so she could speak about her alleged affair with Trump before he ran for president.
While representing Daniels, Avenatti appeared dozens of times on cable news programs and even flirted with a presidential run.
Avenatti has repeatedly spoken out against the Trump administration and the Justice Department, saying he was targeted for criticizing the president. Besides the Nike case, he also faces trial in April on charges that he cheated Daniels out of book deal proceeds and a May trial in Los Angeles on charges he ripped off others, including clients.
He has pleaded not guilty to all charges. A week ago, he was arrested in Los Angeles after authorities there alleged that he violated the conditions of his bail by moving money around illegally since his initial arrest last spring.