Law & the Courts

Avenatti Withdraws from Cohen Case after Judge Orders Halt to ‘Publicity Tour’

Michael Avenatti, attorney for Stormy Daniels, arrives at federal court in New York, May 30, 2018. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

Michael Avenatti withdrew his motion to participate in Michael Cohen’s criminal case Wednesday after a federal judge said he would have to stop his weeks-long “publicity tour” if he wished to be admitted to the New York State Bar.

Citing dozens of cable-news appearances featuring all manner of speculation about Cohen’s guilt in the matter before the court, Judge Kimba Wood warned Avenatti that he would have to stop speaking publicly about the case if he wished to participate in it.

“You cannot declare your opinion as to Mr. Cohen’s guilt, which you did. You would not be able to give publicity to documents,” Wood said in court Wednesday. “You’re entitled to publicity. I can’t stop you — unless you’re participating in a matter before me.”

Roughly an hour after being chastised during the hearing, Avenatti filed a statement withdrawing his previous bid to be admitted to the New York State Bar for the purpose of representing porn star Stormy Daniels in Cohen’s case.

Avenatti argued in the motion, which has been on hold since last month, that he should be allowed to represent Daniels in the case because documents related to a $130,00o hush-money payment she received from Cohen may have been seized in an FBI raid of his home and office.

While Avenatti’s request to be admitted is entirely routine and would be granted under normal circumstances, Cohen’s attorney argued that Avenatti’s frequent public discussion of the case, as well as his recent leaking of Cohen’s financial records, disqualified him from participating.

Cohen’s attorney, Steven Ryan, said he had “never seen an attorney conduct himself in the manner Mr. Avenatti has,” citing Avenatti’s media appearances and his “intentional, malicious and prejudicial” release of Cohen’s bank records, which revealed that Cohen had leveraged his position as Trump’s longtime personal attorney to conduct an influence-peddling campaign around the time of the president’s inauguration.

Avenatti has refused to reveal how he obtained the bank records.

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