Attorney Michael Avenatti was back in court Monday after a tumultuous month for two separate suits brought on behalf of his most famous client, adult film actress Stormy Daniels.
On Monday morning, the California-based lawyer first appeared in a Los Angeles County Superior Court as part of a lawsuit brought against Daniels’ former lawyer Keith Davidson and Michael Cohen, who negotiated her now-infamous nondisclosure agreement about an affair she claims to have had with President Donald Trump in 2006.
Monday afternoon, Avenatti faced off in another case on behalf of Daniels, this time in federal court. That hearing was about how much Daniels owes Trump in legal fees in her dismissed defamation lawsuit against the President.
The judge in the afternoon case did not release a decision but said he would take under advisement a request from Trump’s attorney Charles Harder for nearly $780,000 – half in legal fees and half in sanctions.
Avenatti called the request “an attempt to put my client under Donald Trump’s thumb,” while Harder called the hearing “a total victory for the President,” despite Judge James Otero not releasing a decision.
Harder told the court he charges $841.61 an hour, with the four other attorneys on the case making anywhere from $756.49 to $307.60.
“The number of hours seems excessive, hourly rates not so much,” Otero said, adding that the involvement of a sitting President needed to be a factor in who would handle certain motions.
The morning case, meanwhile, concerned a suit in which Daniels has accused Davidson of breaching his fiduciary duty and colluding with Cohen, who “aided and abetted” the breach. Davidson had denied any wrongdoing in the case. The fight to void the nondisclosure agreement that spawned multiple legal cases has been postponed until January.
Daniels has maintained she was paid to keep silent about an affair with Trump years ago that he has denied ever occurred.
Avenatti has sought to depose Cohen early as part of the suit against him and Davidson. The judge hearing the suit denied the request on Monday, citing staffing reasons and saying the deposition would have to wait until after Cohen is sentenced in federal court, and stayed Daniels’ case against Davidson and Cohen.
In a sentencing memo filed late Friday night, Cohen’s lawyers argued for his sentence to include no prison time, following his guilty pleas. Trump has disavowed Cohen and called on Monday for him to receive “a full and complete sentence.”
Speaking to reporters outside of court Monday morning, Avenatti said he and Daniels hoped that Cohen is sentenced to maximum prison time.
“My client and I hope that he is sentenced to the absolute maximum federal penitentiary time,” Avenatti said.
He also tweeted shortly after the appearance, saying, “It will be interesting next Wednesday to see if Michael Cohen is immediately taken into custody to begin serving a lengthy prison sentence for his multiple federal felonies. The judge is not a push over and will likely appreciate that he can cooperate with Mueller from prison.”
Turbulent time for Avenatti
Monday’s court appearances were the first time the public saw Avenatti since he was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence against his now former girlfriend last month.
The Los Angeles district attorney declined to charge him with a felony but sent the case to the city attorney’s office, where misdemeanor charges are still being considered in the case.
Just before Avenatti was scheduled back in court to take on part of the case against Trump that made both him and Daniels household names, Daniels publicly criticized Avenatti last week over his treatment of her and her finances.
Daniels told The Daily Beast that Avenatti filed a defamation lawsuit against Trump against her wishes. That lawsuit was filed after Trump used Twitter to mock Daniels about a man she said had threatened her in a parking lot to make sure she stayed silent about the affair she said she had with Trump more than a decade ago.
Daniels said she was not told that suit was going to be filed. She also complained that Avenatti had not given her an accounting she had demanded of how more than half a million dollars collected on a crowdfunding site for her legal defense was being spent.
Avenatti said her statements took him by surprise.
“I have always been an open book with Stormy as to all aspects of her cases and she knows that. You need only look back at her numerous prior interviews where she states we talk and communicate multiple times every day about her cases,” Avenatti said in a statement to CNN.
He also pointed out that the defamation case was filed in April and if Daniels was unhappy with it, he could have dropped the suit. They didn’t, and Daniels lost. Otero determined that the President’s language was simply hyperbole and within his First Amendment rights.
On Sunday, Daniels seemingly reversed course, tweeting, “Pleased that Michael and I have sorted s**t out and we know the accounting is on the up and up. We are going to kick ass together on two coasts tomorrow.”
She elaborated during an appearance in Washington on Monday evening, saying Avenatti had shown her an accounting for the money.
“I just started having people ask me where the money went, was it going to be used to pay Trump, was there money left over, and I feel like people who gave me money deserve to know where it went. Because it’s so kind and generous for all these people to do this for me, and I am not a thief,” she said.
“So I just kept asking for accounting and I couldn’t get it. You know, the money, he was suppose to … the security is paid out of that and it just became difficult to get some monies.”
But, she added, “he sent me the accounting and it looks good.”
Avenatti said on Monday that there were “no issues between Stormy and I.”
CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated to clarify Daniels’ accusations against Davidson and to note that Cohen is also a defendant in that suit.
CNN’s Elizabeth Hartfield, Jasmine Wright and Stephanie Becker contributed to this report.