In fraud trial, defendant Michael Avenatti asks Stormy Daniels about chats with the dead


By Luc Cohen

NEW YORK, Jan 28 (Reuters) - American lawyer Michael Avenatti questioned his former client, Stormy Daniels, about her communications with dead people on Friday, in an attempt to use the porn star's belief in paranormal activity to undermine her credibility.

Avenatti, who is representing himself in his criminal fraud trial in federal court in Manhattan, is accused of embezzling nearly $300,000 from Daniels, who he represented in cases against former President Donald Trump. The brash, 50-year-old lawyer has pleaded not guilty and has portrayed the dispute as a disagreement over legal fees.

"How do you speak with the dead?" Avenatti asked Daniels on Friday.

"I don't know, it just happens sometimes," she replied, adding that she used "cards, meditation" to communicate with dead people and that sometimes she recorded their conversations.

Daniels, 42, on Thursday described herself as an actress, writer and director currently working on a documentary-style television show, titled "Spooky Babes," in which she and a team investigate paranormal activity.

Avenatti cross-examined Daniels for around 10 minutes on Thursday and has estimated that he will need around six hours to question her.

He asked Daniels on Friday whether she believed in "paranormal activity," and she replied that she did.

The testimony came on the fifth day of the fraud trial.

Daniels, who is testifying as a government witness, said on Thursday that Avenatti had diverted funds intended for her from a book contract to an account of his own.

Avenatti and Daniels, whose given name is Stephanie Clifford, rose to fame in 2018 when she retained him to help her get out of a nondisclosure agreement with Trump.

Daniels is known for receiving $130,000 in hush money from former Trump personal lawyer Michael Cohen to keep quiet before the 2016 election about sexual encounters she said she had with Trump. The former president has denied having sex with Daniels..

Andrew Dalack, Avenatti's former public defender, on Monday in his opening statement called Daniels' claims about having interactions with dead people and having conversations with a haunted doll named Susan a "problem."

Avenatti the following day parted ways with Dalack and another public defender and began representing himself, citing a "breakdown" in their relationship.

Before Daniels resumed testifying, U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman rejected Avenatti's objection to prosecutors' alleged failure to turn over some evidence.

Avenatti used the same objection to win a mistrial last August in California, where he faced separate fraud changes, but Furman said it had no bearing on the Daniels case.

"This is a red herring, a distraction, smoke and mirrors," Furman said.

(Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Jonathan Oatis)

((; +1 646 361 1622; Reuters Messaging: Twitter: @cohenluc))

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.


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