Avenatti's Sentencing Moved To Feb. Amid COVID-19 Spike

By Lauren Berg
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Law360 (November 16, 2020, 10:47 PM EST) -- A Manhattan federal judge on Monday agreed to delay for the fourth time the sentencing of Michael Avenatti following his conviction for extorting Nike Inc., after the embattled attorney pointed out the dramatic spike in coronavirus cases all over the country.

In a one-page order, U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe again moved Avenatti's sentencing from Dec. 9 to Feb. 17, 2021, following a request from Avenatti's attorneys, who cited recent surges of COVID-19 in the Empire State, California and Florida.

Avenatti is under home confinement in Venice, California, awaiting a separate embezzlement trial, while his attorney is based in Miami, Florida. Avenatti noted the difficulty with traveling to New York because the state is currently requiring people to take two different coronavirus tests and receive negative results before they can enter the courthouse, his attorneys said in a letter to the court.

Avenatti said his two daughters, along with his first wife, want to attend his sentencing but must travel to and remain in New York for at least seven days before the hearing to make sure they have time to take a test and receive negative results. He asked that the court delay the sentencing until at least late December to give his daughters time to finish their high school semester.

In their own letter to the court, prosecutors opposed Avenatti's request, saying the sentencing has already been delayed three times and that the victims in the case want Avenatti to be sentenced without further delay.

"The government recognizes and appreciates the logistical challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic," prosecutors said. "However, the court has put in place a rigorous protocol to ensure the safety of visitors to the courthouse."

"Considering all of the facts and circumstances of this case and, in particular, the interests of the victims and the public in finality, the government submits that sentencing should proceed in December 2020," they added.

Prosecutors did not object to Avenatti's request for a delay from Dec. 9 to Dec. 21 or Dec. 22, but said any more additional time just isn't necessary.

After a trial that lasted just over two weeks, Avenatti was convicted in February of extortion, transmission of interstate communications with intent to extort and honest services wire fraud. Along with the embezzlement case, he also faces another federal prosecution in New York over his alleged theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars owed to high-profile client Stormy Daniels from her book deal. That trial is set for April 2021.

The attorney is currently on temporary release from jail, which was just extended two months on Friday.

A representative for the government declined to comment Monday evening. Counsel for Avenatti did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The government is represented by Matthew D. Podolsky, Daniel C. Richenthal and Robert B. Sobelman of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York.

Avenatti is represented by Scott Srebnick of Scott A. Srebnick PC and E. Danya Perry of Perry Guha LLP.

The case is U.S. v. Michael Avenatti, case number 1:19-cr-00373, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

--Additional reporting by Stewart Bishop, Andrew Strickler and J. Edward Moreno. Editing by Emily Kokoll.

For a reprint of this article, please contact reprints@law360.com.

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