Just hours after indicating it might be deadlocked on one of two counts, the trial jury deliberating the fate of embattled attorney Michael Avenatti said Friday that one juror was refusing to look at evidence and was deciding the case based on her feelings and emotions.
The panel of 12 people is tasked with determining if Avenatti is guilty of cheating his former client, Stormy Daniels, our of nearly $300,000 in book proceeds. In a note sent to the court on Friday, the jury foreperson told U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman that the juror was "not going on evidence" but was basing her conclusions instead on "all emotions."
The note began: "We have one juror who is refusing to look at evidence and is acting on a feeling."
The note came early in the second full day of deliberations.
Furman rejected a request by Avenatti, who is representing himself, that he call an immediate mistrial. Instead, Furman told the jury that it must follow its pledge to base any decision on the evidence.
Avenatti has been charged with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft for allegedly taking nearly $300,000 of an $800,000 book advance for Daniels’ autobiography, "Full Disclosure," in 2018.
Avenatti appeared frequently on cable television news programs in 2018 as he represented Daniels in lawsuits against former President Trump. The lawsuits were aimed at freeing Daniels from the terms of a $130,000 payout she received days before the 2016 presidential election to silence her about claims that she had had a sexual encounter with Trump a decade earlier.
He faces one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, and aggravated identity theft, which carries up to two years in prison. It’s the third time he has stood trial in two years.
Avenatti has insisted that he had a good faith reason to pocket some money.
The deliberations are occurring at the end of the second week of a trial that featured two days of testimony by Daniels, a porn actor whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.
Earlier on Friday, Furman declined Avenatti’s previous motion for mistrial, which the attorney had filed after Daniels had appeared for an interview with a news broadcast that morning.
Furman called Avenatti’s motion "beyond frivolous," court papers show.
"Ms. Daniels is not a party to this case and has a First Amendment right to speak her mind," the jurist wrote. "Defendant provides zero basis to believe that anyone on the jury is even aware of the interview (the Court was unaware of it until Defendant's letter), let alone disregarded the Court's repeated instructions to avoid any news or information related to the case."
The 50-year-old was considering running for president himself when his rise in popularity in Democratic circles was interrupted by his March 2019 arrest on charges that he tried to extort up to $25 million from Nike with threats to spoil its reputation if the sportswear giant did not meet his demands.
The same day, he was charged in federal court in California with cheating clients and others out of millions of dollars. The Daniels case was brought weeks later.
In early 2020, Avenatti was convicted in the Nike case and was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison. He has not yet served that sentence. Last year, a trial on the California charges ended in a mistrial.
Fox News' Courtney Crawford and Marta Dhanis contributed to this report, as well as The Associated Press.