Michael Avenatti might not have liked it when I began routinely identifying him as “sleazy lawyer Michael Avenatti,” but it now appears that I may owe an apology…to sleazy lawyers. I don’t want them to sue me for defamation for associating them with Michael Avenatti.
Even with the herculean effort required to grant him a presumption of innocence, it’s getting harder with each passing day to keep a straight face when he claims he’s a victim of politicized prosecutors out to get him for attacking President Trump. If so, there must be a lot of Trump-voting prosecutors in unlikely places. First, Avanatti was indicted in New York for allegedly trying to extort $25 million from Nike. Then he was indicted in California on wire and bank fraud charges for allegedly misappropriating a client’s legal settlement for himself.
And now, also in California federal court, the Justice Department has filed a 36-count grand jury indictment against him for fraud, perjury, failure to pay taxes, embezzlement and other financial crimes. Prosecutors say he was running a Bernie Madoff-style house of cards, lying to clients about not receiving about $12 million worth of legal settlements when he’d actually taken them himself and was using them to pay other clients and to fund his lavish lifestyle and investments, including a racing team, a coffee house chain and a private jet.
One of the accusations is particularly vile: that Avenatti embezzled a $4 million settlement from a paralyzed client, didn’t tell him he had the money, and gave the destitute man only a little cash here and there to cover some overdue bills. You’d have to hold a limbo contest for worms in a coal mine to get any lower than that.
Avenatti declared all the charges “bogus nonsense” meant to sideline him and tweeted that he will plead “NOT GUILTY.” He’ll need the all-caps, since these latest charges alone carry a combined maximum penalty of 335 years in prison. As Fox News legal analyst Gregg Jarrett noted, if the feds can prove even a fraction of them, then Avenatti will be trading his Armani suits for an orange jumpsuit.
But while the media are concentrating on the lurid charges, let’s not let them off the hook. The other part of this story that deserves notice is that for over a year, liberal news channels gave this man a national platform. His willingness to savage President Trump on camera was all it took for them to present him to Americans as not merely a reputable, credible commentator but a serious potential presidential candidate! An analysis by the Media Research Center found that he made 254 TV appearances (including 121 on CNN and 108 on MSNBC), free airtime valued by the Washington Free Beacon as being worth $175 million.
Is it now safe to add the glorification of Michael Avenatti to the growing list of major stories that the “professional” mainstream news media got spectacularly wrong? If you listened to all their combined journalistic fire power, you believed that Trump couldn’t possibly win the Presidency; when he did, it was because he colluded with the Russians to rig the election; and the cure for that might be to elect that crusader for justice, Michael Avenatti, to the White House.
Over that same time period, I predicted confidently that Trump would win, explained that “Russian collusion” was a delusion concocted to excuse voters rejecting Hillary Clinton, and told you Avenatti was a sleazy lawyer.
So why would anyone subscribe to the New York Times when my newsletter is free?