MANHATTAN (CN) — “Very, very angry, shocked, disbelief, hurt,” the porn star Stormy Daniels testified in Manhattan federal court on Thursday afternoon, describing how she felt upon finding out that her personal attorney had forged her signature and for months had been diverting hundreds of thousands from her $800,000 advance for a 2018 book deal.
The 42-year-old Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, entered the plexiglass-walled witness box at 11:15 on Thursday morning on day four of a trial where her former attorney Michael Avenatti is charged with stealing roughly $300,000 from her book deal with St. Martin’s Press.
Wearing a droopy maroon cardigan over a black dress on Thursday with her signature bleached blond hair, Daniels testified over three hours of direct questioning as the prosecution’s star witness.
Daniels said the Los Angeles-based Avenatti was her lawyer for 12 months from February 2018 until February 2019, when she hired new counsel “because he stole from me and lied to me.”
Avenatti went from representing celebrities to becoming one in his own right during that time while representing Daniels as she fought to terminate a hush-money deal that barred her from going public about her alleged sexual relationship with the 45th American president, Donald Trump, before he took office.
On Monday, Avenatti, 50, returned to the Manhattan federal courthouse where he previously represented Daniels now as a defendant in his third criminal trial in two years, his second in New York's Southern District.
Daniels testified during direct questioning Thursday that Avenatti told her during a lunch in Los Angeles in February 2018 he would charge her a onetime fee of $100 for his representation.
"He would take a lot of the winnings against Donald Trump," she said on how he would be compensated. "When it came to book deal, or a movie deal or a documentary, he said he would discuss it later."
Daniels said she paid Avenatti that inital $100 payment for his legal representation in cash during that lunch, which he then used to pay for the meal.
By April 2018, Daniels’ literary agent Luke Janklow inked an $800,000 publishing deal with St. Martin’s Press.
Daniels testified on Thursday she screamed in her car at a gas station in Sun Valley when she saw that the first book advance payment, $212,500, had made it into her bank account.
Daniels, who was in Sun Valley that day to shoot a commercial for an adult video company, said seeing that first payment from the book deal “kind of solidified that I was a real author, something I’d been working on for 10 years."
Avenatti had told Daniels he would "never take a penny" from her book deal money, she said, "because I was courageous, and I earned it, and I deserved it."
“He was going to get a big payday when he finally got Trump, and we had crowd-funding money," she explained.
Daniels said she expected a second advance payment from the publishing company after she completed the first draft of the book in July but didn’t get paid until months later when Avenatti told her the publishing company had sent the second payment directly to him as a cashier’s check.
“I was confused and extremely irritated," Stormy testified. In response to her frustration, she said Avenatti told her: “at least we got it.”
Four months then passed without receiving her third payment, Daniels testified, explaining that she was enduring a tense domestic situation while living in the same house as her ex-husband. “Each day is one step closer to one of us going to jail,” she wrote in a text to Avenatti at the time, again asking for the third payment from her publishing deal.