SANTA ANA, Calif. (CN) – Attorney Michael Avenatti pleaded not guilty Monday to federal charges accusing him of stealing millions of dollars from his clients, lying on income tax returns and deceiving investigators during bankruptcy proceedings.
A federal grand jury returned a 36-count indictment on April 11 claiming Avenatti stole over $12 million from settlement funds meant for his clients, which he then used to finance his coffee company, a racing team and other lavish personal expenses such as a $5 million jet he co-owned.
Prosecutors say Avenatti – who briefly explored a 2020 presidential run – stole a $4 million settlement from Los Angeles County in January 2015 that he negotiated for a paraplegic man who claimed the county violated his constitutional rights.
Avenatti, 48, was also arrested last month in the Southern District of New York on charges he attempted to shake down apparel giant Nike for at least $20 million by threatening to reveal information about payments made to high school athletes.
Appearing in federal court in Santa Ana, California, on Monday, the attorney who once represented porn actress Stormy Daniels in her action against President Donald Trump was asked by the judge to enter a plea on the charges.
“Not guilty to all charges,” Avenatti said.
Federal prosecutors had no comment after the hearing.
The trial is set to begin June 25 and is estimated to last 15 days.
Hours before the hearing, Avenatti wrote on Twitter that he has a right to a fair jury trial and the right to presumption of innocence despite any spat he may with his political enemies, including Trump.
“As a citizen of this country, I am entitled to both, I expect both, and I demand both,” Avenatti tweeted. “We don’t convict someone in America based on a one-sided argument and a press conference. Even when he is one of the biggest enemies of the president and his son.”
Avenatti also said in the tweet that he would be limiting his social media posts about the case.
He is represented by John Lewis Littrell of the firm Bienert Miller and Katzman.