SANTA ANA, Calif. (CN) – A federal judge ordered embattled attorney Michael Avenatti on Tuesday to either find an attorney to defend him against federal bank and wire fraud charges or open up his finances to show why he’s entitled to a public defender.
Avenatti – who became a fixture on cable news programs while representing adult film star Stormy Daniels in her dispute with President Donald Trump – pleaded not guilty April 29 to federal charges he stole millions of dollars from his clients, lied on income tax returns and deceived investigators during bankruptcy proceedings.
The charges stem from a federal grand jury’s 36-count indictment accusing Avenatti of stealing over $12 million in settlements meant for his clients and using the money to finance his now-defunct coffee company, a racing team and other lavish personal expenses including a $5 million jet.
On Tuesday, the one-time presidential candidate appeared in federal court in Santa Ana, California, to answer accusations filed by federal prosecutors Monday that the attorney hopes to delay the proceedings by not hiring a defense attorney.
“The government does not believe that there is any valid reason why defendant has yet to resolve his representation issues and is concerned that defendant will seek to use such issues to unnecessarily delay this prosecution,” prosecutors said in the filing, adding Avenatti appears to have the “financial wherewithal” to afford counsel since he rents a luxury condo for $11,000 per month.
Prosecutors want U.S. District Judge James V. Selna to either order Avenatti to hire a lawyer or have him fill out a statement about his finances that explains his need for a public defender. They said they don’t want to delay the estimated 15-day trial, set to begin June 4, and added Avenatti’s alleged victims have a right to speedy proceedings.
Avenatti has a “pattern and practice of using delay tactics to avoid responsibility for his conduct,” prosecutors said.
But Selna gave Avenatti until May 15 to retain counsel.
Outside the courthouse, Avenatti told reporters he has offers from attorneys around the country who want to represent him, though he declined to name them.
“I anticipate having my private counsel confirmed and in place within the next seven to eight court days, which should alleviate any issues with my representation,” Avenatti told reporters. “I’ve talked to a lot of attorneys and I’m not going to answer any more questions related to that.”
Avenatti had been represented by the Bienert Katzman firm, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
The nature of the federal charges he faces means a lengthy and complex trial, Avenatti said.
“I’m confident that after the process runs its course, and after due process occurs, that justice will be done,” Avenatti told reporters.