MANHATTAN (CN) — Blizzard winds licked the 26th floor windows of a courtroom that tops the Manhattan federal courthouse on Friday as the adult film actress Stormy Daniels was interrogated during the trial of her former attorney, Michael Avenatti, about her beliefs in supernatural phenomena.
Picking up where he left off on Thursday afternoon, Avenatti, who is representing himself at trial, continued his cross-examination of Daniels, whose $800,000 publishing advance he is accused of diverting to himself in 2018.
Almost four years ago, Avenatti took Daniels on a legal client as the adult film star 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.
Nearly immediately on Friday morning, Avenatti asked Daniels about comments she had made on podcasts and social media after their 11-month professional relationship disintegrated and he was arrested, referencing her wishes that he be violated by fellow inmates.
"During that podcast, you stated that I was ‘fucking myself pretty nice and hard,’ and that when I go to prison that ‘there will be a long line of people to ass-rape me,’” Avenatti asked early on Friday. “Do you deny that you made those statements?”
"I don’t deny it,” she replied. “I don’t remember."
"You stated it was pretty handy that you had your own line of lube now, so you could just get me a gift basket,” Avenatti continued.
Daniels, who was dressed in all black, began to exhibit increasing exasperation when Avenatti pushed her on to confirm on the stand her beliefs in a litany of paranormal activities, including that she herself is a medium who communicates with the dead and nonliving spirits, has experienced violent “poltergeist” incidents and “shadow people,” and occasionally interacts a haunted doll named Susan, all of which are documented in web videos promoting her “Spooky Babes” television project.
Avenatti also asked Daniels about her side business reading tarot cards. "Technically, oracle cards," she quickly corrected.
“How do you speak with the dead,” Avenatti asked in a softer more inquisitive demeanor. “I don’t know, it just happens sometime,” Stormy replied. “Cards, meditation,” she explained.
“Do the dead speak back to you,” Avenatti asked. “They communicate with you?”
Daniels affirmed, “Yes.”
“How do you see into people’s home from the outside,” he asked her. “It’s called remote viewing,” Daniels said. “I have no idea how it works — that’s the premise of the show”.
Avenatti had previously misidentified the phenomenon as “X-ray vision” during a cross-examination on Thursday afternoon, to Daniels’ noticeable frustration.
Avenatti also brought up that Daniels’ experience with a haunted house in New Orleans caused her to undergo a Reiki scan that showed apparent “blockage in her head.”
A puzzled U.S. District Judge Jesse Fruman, presiding over the trial, inquired “what kind of scan was that,” and asked Daniels to spell it.
“R-E-I-K-I,” Daniels replied, later explaining that the procedure was performed by a holistic “energy worker” in Texas and Louisiana. "Luckily it was stress,” she said.
Later during cross-examination, Avenatti exhibited the attorney-client fee agreement he signed with Daniels in late February 2019, which includes a clause that, central to his defense, says he is entitled to “reasonable percentage to be agreed upon” of the proceeds from any book or media opportunity.
“You’re very entitled, yes,” an increasingly punchy Daniels snapped on Friday.
“You knew when you signed this contract, attorneys generally don’t work for free,” Avenatti asked Daniels.
“That’s why I was shocked that you would,” she replied.
Later on cross-examination, Avenatti pressed Daniels to confirm that she had told government investigators that she told them he was “typically nice and respectful” during the 11 months he was her attorney.
“You lied to me, that’s not respectful,” she replied, but ultimately conceded she had, in fact made that statement to investigators. “Yes you were cordial to me, always,” she said. “I was wrong.”
Shortly before breaking for lunch, Avenatti asked Daniels whether she had ever told reporters, “every time I watch him work, I think, this is what it must have been like to see the Sistine Chapel being painted.”
“Yes, that’s what you told me to say,” she replied sharply.
On direct questioning by prosecutors on Thursday, Daniels explained that of the four advance payments from her publishing deal, Avenatti diverted the second and third deposits from her literary agent into a separate trust account and lied to her for months about the status of those payments.
Daniels published her memoir “Full Disclosure” in the fall of 2018, detailing a 2006 encounter with Trump and the subsequent hush-money payment facilitated by Trump’s then-personal attorney and fixer Michael Cohen ahead of the 2016 election.
Cohen would later plead guilty to making payments with the intent of influencing a federal election on Trump's behalf, but Trump denies that he and Daniels ever had sex.
Having served a year behind bars on his guilty plea before the court allowed him to finish his three-year prison term at home in Manhattan, Cohen was seated in the last row of the courtroom gallery on Friday morning and occasionally chuckled audibly while Avenatti sustained repeated objections to his line of questioning.
Avenatti said on Thursday afternoon he expects his defense case to take two or three days, but has not decided whether he would be taking the stand in his own defense.
The charges related to Daniels stem from the last of three criminal indictments filed against him in 2019. About six months ago, Avenatti was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in federal prison for trying to extort Nike. Those proceedings were in Manhattan federal court, where he now faces the charges related to Daniels. In the interim, a California trial of Avenatti ended in a mistrial.Follow @jruss_jruss
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