(Reuters) – Michael Avenatti, the lawyer who represented porn star Stormy Daniels in lawsuits against U.S. President Donald Trump, has been sued by a paraplegic client who accused him of siphoning away a $4 million settlement he had won.
Lawyer Michael Avenatti speaks as he departs federal court in the Manhattan borough of New York, New York, U.S., May 28, 2019. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Geoffrey Johnson is seeking at least $9.5 million plus punitive damages, from Avenatti and several of his former colleagues in a complaint filed with the Orange County Superior Court in California.
Johnson said he obtained the settlement from Los Angeles County after abuse from sheriff’s deputies following an improper 2011 arrest led to two suicide attempts, and that he became a paraplegic by jumping from an elevated floor at a county jail.
His law firm is expected to discuss the case at a press conference on Thursday.
“Mr. Johnson’s claims are categorically false and frivolous, and his case will be thrown out of court,” Avenatti said in an email on Thursday.
The claims underlying the lawsuit are also part of federal prosecutors’ criminal case against Avenatti, who faces wire fraud, bank fraud, extortion and a few dozen other charges over various matters in California and New York.
Prosecutors accused Avenatti in April of diverting most of the $4 million settlement, using some proceeds to finance his coffee business and pay personal expenses, and giving Johnson periodic “advances” that never exceeded $1,900 and totaled only about $124,000.
Thursday’s lawsuit adds to the legal problems for Avenatti, who drew national attention through his representation of Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, in lawsuits against Trump and the president’s former lawyer Michael Cohen.
Avenatti made hundreds of television appearances and briefly flirted with a 2020 White House run.
He has had a lower profile since the first criminal charges, involving his alleged attempt to extort Nike Inc, were filed against him in March.
Avenatti has denied the various criminal charges and pledged to fight them in court.
Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Richard Chang and Susan Thomas