Disgraced attorney Michael Avenatti is having a hard time enduring the conditions at a New York federal jail that housed Jeffrey Epstein until his death – and is reportedly staying in the same unit that once housed drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, his lawyers said.
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The details of Avenatti’s housing conditions were revealed in a letter filed by his attorneys late Monday, in which they ask District Court Judge Paul G. Gardephe to consider moving the embattled lawyer, who once represented adult film star Stormy Daniels, to Metropolitan Correctional Center’s general population where he was placed after being extradited from California on Jan. 17.
“Since then, he has been housed in the Special Housing Unit on the notorious 10-South of the MCC-New York,” the letter states. “He is in a cell reportedly once occupied by El Chapo, on a floor that houses individuals charged with terrorism offenses.” El Chapo was ultimately sentenced to life in prison.
Avenatti intends to play an active role in his case but is hindered in doing so because of his limited access to court documents, evidence and a computer, which is typically provided to detainees awaiting trial.
On Jan. 14, he was arrested by IRS agents on allegations of violating the terms of his pretrial release, officials said at the time. His bail was revoked during a hearing on the case, forcing a delay of his New York extortion trial that was set to begin later in the month.
Avenatti was accused in Los Angeles of hiding his assets from a client, a former legal partner and an ex-wife while living in an $11,000-a-month apartment, being chauffeured in a Mercedes-Benz and staying at luxury resorts.
He pocketed $1 million in legal fees during the period and then shifted the money around to conceal the payment despite mounting debts that surpassed $20 million, prosecutors said. After receiving the money, he even sought legal representation from a public defender while declining to provide a financial affidavit to show his ability to afford a lawyer.
Meanwhile, he was charged in New York with trying to extort up to $25 million from Nike.
Now back in the Big Apple, Avenatti is being held in solitary confinement and restricted from any contact with the outside world, outside of his meetings with attorneys and medical exams, the missive alleges.
“The temperature feels like it is in the mid-40s. He is forced to sleep with three blankets. Not surprisingly, he has been having great difficulty functioning,” the letter further states.
A spokesperson for the MCC would not comment on the matter.
The notorious lockup is regarded for having some of the tightest security measures in the world. MCC has housed some of the world’s most infamous criminals, including mob boss John Gotti, El Chapo, World Trade Center bombers Ramzi Yousef and Omar Abdel-Rahman (known as the “the Blind Sheikh”) as well as Ponzi scheme mastermind Bernie Madoff.
The MCC is the same facility where previously convicted sex offender Epstein was held following his July 2019 arrest for child sex trafficking and conspiracy. His detention at the jail was cut short when, in August, he was found hanging in his jail cell by strips of orange bed sheets.
While the New York City medical examiner deemed his death a suicide by hanging, forensic pathologist and expert Dr. Michael Baden has questioned the ruling, citing broken bones and burst capillaries that are unusual in hanging suicides.
Two jail guards were later arrested in connection to their conduct around the time of Epstein’s death, and federal investigators are probing the matter.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.