NEW YORK, N.Y. – A judge dealt a blow to California attorney Michael Avenatti's attempt to limit his testimony if he testifies at his New York extortion trial, saying Monday that allegations of lies and deceit involving past clients are "highly relevant" although specific charges in other cases are not.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe came just before prosecutors were expected to conclude presenting evidence in the case in which the government alleges Avenatti tried to extort up to $25 million from Nike with threats to muddy its name with allegations of corruption.
Attorney Scott Srebnick said Friday that whether Avenatti testifies would depend in part on the judge's willingness to exclude questions about allegations that Avenatti cheated porn star Stormy Daniels out of book proceeds or clients in Los Angeles out of millions of dollars.
Gardephe said he would exclude from allowable testimony any references to criminal charges pending against Avenatti in the case involving Daniels, which is set for trial in New York in April, or the fraud charges in Los Angeles federal court that are scheduled for a May trial.
But he said “prior incidences of lies and deceit is highly relevant” and prosecutors would be able to elicit a description of alleged fraudulent behavior against former clients.
The judge also ruled in favor of prosecutors on two other major subjects the defense had argued to exclude if Avenatti testified.
Gardephe said he would let prosecutors question Avenatti about his finances, except for references to spousal and child support.
The judge also said he would let the government introduce evidence of Avenatti's internet searches surrounding Nike stock that suggest he was seeking to “further his own personal financial interests” as soon as he received confidential information against Nike from his client.
The client, an amateur basketball coach from Los Angeles, testified last week that two Nike executives forced him to make financial payments to the mother of an elite high school basketball player and to engage in other questionable behavior.
The judge also rejected a request by the defense to call as witnesses several Nike employees or lawyers and an attorney who works with Mark Geragos, a lawyer who participated with Avenatti in some discussions with Nike prior to Avenatti's March 2019 arrest.
Avenatti, 48, has pleaded not guilty to charges in all three criminal cases. Once a regular guest on cable television programs, Avenatti has been housed for weeks at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan after Los Angeles prosecutors alleged he violated his bail conditions.