While asking for lenience, Mr. Avenatti’s lawyers cited his history of championing “the voiceless and powerless.” They wrote in a memorandum to the court that he had overcome humble roots, worked his way through law school and gone on to obtain more than $1 billion in settlements over the years for clients who were often vulnerable and elderly.
Those lawyers wrote that Mr. Avenatti had taken on Ms. Daniels as a client for $100 and a fee agreement that included a provision for “crowd-sourced reimbursement” of costs and expenses, then ended up as something of a “jack-of-all-trades legal fixer.” They added that he had represented Ms. Daniels in matters including a lawsuit against a Florida strip club and a false arrest claim against police in Ohio, while relying “primarily on his firm’s resources.”
“Mr. Avenatti was overwhelmed by an all-consuming relationship” with Ms. Daniels. the memo stated. “It placed a significant burden on the rest of Mr. Avenatti’s practice, which was dealing with its own financial woes.”
Prosecutors countered in their own memorandum that Mr. Avenatti had been under no obligation to represent Ms. Daniels, that he could have focused his practice on work that paid the bills, and that he had gotten precisely what he was after when he agreed to represent her: “fame and a platform.”
“The defendant committed a serious crime,” the prosecutors wrote. “He stole from a client — someone who put her trust in him and relied on him.”
The prosecutors went on to write that Mr. Avenatti had a “tenuous relationship with the truth,” citing his summation, when he began telling the jury a story about his father selling hot dogs at a ballpark as a teenager. Judge Furman cut him off.
Later, prosecutors said, Mr. Avenatti related the full story outside the courthouse, telling reporters that a supervisor had ordered his father to use mustard to disguise broken hot dogs, then going on to liken the government’s case to that mustard.
Prosecutors suggested that the anecdote did not really originate with Mr. Avenatti’s father.
“The tale instead,” they wrote, is one that a lawyer working with Mr. Avenatti “has told at trials in this district about his own experience selling hot dogs at Shea Stadium.”