NEW YORK (AP) — California attorney Michael Avenatti said Monday he will not testify at his New York extortion trial after a judge ruled that allegations of lies and deceit involving past clients were “highly relevant” and he could be questioned about them if he took the stand.
Avenatti stood as he formally told U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe out of the jury’s presence that he would not testify at the trial, where he is accused of trying to extort up to $25 million from Nike with threats to muddy its name with allegations of corruption.
The judge asked him if he had carefully considered his decision.
“In light of the court’s prior rulings, yes,” Avenatti said.
Attorney Scott Srebnick said the defense presentation will be brief, and Gardephe scheduled closing arguments, likely to last about four hours, for Tuesday.
On Friday, Srebnick said Avenatti’s decision about testifying would depend on the judge’s willingness to exclude questions about allegations that Avenatti cheated porn star Stormy Daniels out of book proceeds or clients in Los Angeles out of millions of dollars.
Early Monday, Gardephe ruled that he would exclude from allowable testimony only references to criminal charges pending against Avenatti in the case involving Daniels, set for trial in New York in the spring, or the fraud charges in Los Angeles federal court that are scheduled for a trial also in the spring.
But he said “prior incidences of lies and deceit is highly relevant,” and prosecutors would be able to elicit a description of allegedly fraudulent behavior against former clients.
Avenatti, 48, has pleaded not guilty to charges in all three criminal cases. The California attorney gained fame through his representation of Daniels in lawsuits against President Donald Trump. Once a regular guest on cable television programs, Avenatti has been jailed in Manhattan after Los Angeles prosecutors alleged he violated his bail conditions.
The judge in the current trial also ruled in favor of prosecutors on two other subjects.
Gardephe said he would let prosecutors question Avenatti about his finances, except for references to spousal and child support.
The judge also said he would let the government introduce evidence of Avenatti’s internet searches surrounding Nike stock that suggest he was seeking to “further his own personal financial interests” as soon as he received confidential information against Nike from his client.
The client, an amateur basketball coach from Los Angeles, testified last week that two Nike executives forced him to make financial payments to the mother of an elite high school basketball player and to engage in other questionable behavior.
The judge also rejected a request by the defense to call as witnesses several Nike employees or lawyers and an attorney who works with Mark Geragos, a lawyer who participated with Avenatti in some discussions with Nike prior to Avenatti’s March 2019 arrest.