(CN) - Celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti told a federal judge Thursday he should be first in line for money from a settlement over Stormy Daniels' arrest at an Ohio strip club last year because he is owed $2 million in unpaid legal fees and costs.
Avenatti filed a notice of lien for attorney fees and costs in Columbus federal court, claiming Daniels has only paid him a $100 retainer after they parted ways earlier this year, and nothing since.
He says the adult film actress, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, owes him for thousands of attorney and staff hours he spent on her legal cases and is entitled to the judgment and settlement in her favor.
“To be clear, no net settlement proceeds or fees are to be distributed to Ms. Daniels or any of her attorneys without the express, written agreement of Mr. Avenatti and/or a full adjudication of this lien pursuant to California law,” the 6-page filing states.
Prosecutors in New York charged Avenatti earlier this year with stealing $300,000 from Daniels to fund his personal and business expenses, including car payments on a Ferrari. That’s on top of charges that he tried to extort Nike, and separate charges in California that allege he misappropriated millions of dollars from his clients. Avenatti has denied any wrongdoing.
Daniels reached a settlement with Columbus last month after she filed a $2 million complaint against the city over her July 2018 arrest. The Columbus police quickly dropped the charges, and the city agreed to pay Daniels $450,000 to settle her claims of false arrest, false imprisonment and civil rights violations.
Avenatti says that his firm helped win her release on bail, and made sure that the city dropped the charges within 24 hours of her arrest. He says that Daniels had refused his demands for payment for 19 months of legal services.
“Instead, Ms. Daniels maintains that because she is a ‘celebrity,’ she is entitled to free legal services and costs, and when confronted with her repeated failure to pay, she believes that she is entitled to manufacture and fabricate facts designed to impugn the reputation of her counsel and falsely accuse him of a multitude of acts. But the law does not work the way Ms. Daniels wishes,” the filing states.
Avenatti claims Daniels owes him at least $2 million in legal services plus costs and expenses.
Avenatti's attorney Tom Warren said that his client had done an "enormous amount of high quality legal work for Ms. Daniels under intense pressure and scrutiny."
"He made significant personal sacrifices for her benefit. He deserves to be paid by her, not criticized," Warren wrote in an email.
Daniels and her lawyer did not immediately respond to interview requests Thursday.
She was arrested in Sirens Gentlemen’s strip club in Columbus as part of a vice unit sting. The adult film actress has said the sting may have been politically motivated because of her claims against President Donald Trump. Daniels said that Trump’s fixer Michael Cohen paid her $130,000 to conceal an affair she had with the president more than a decade ago. She later sued Trump to void a nondisclosure agreement tied to the affair.
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