Michael Avenatti, the celebrity lawyer who became a household name representing porn star Stormy Daniels in lawsuits against former President Donald Trump, will face his former client in trial on Monday to face allegations that he swindled her out of $300,000.
Daniels' testimony in Manhattan federal court will be pivotal for prosecutors trying to prove Avenatti engaged in wire fraud and aggravated identity theft to keep from giving his client money he had received from her book publisher.
Avenatti's legal team filed a motion requesting the trial date be pushed back until February 7, 2022, contending that the courthouse's mask mandate – which affects witnesses – violates Avenatti's Sixth Amendment fair trial and Confrontation Clause rights.
The clause ensures that defendants have the opportunity to face their accusers and witnesses in court.
On Sunday, Judge Jesse M. Furman denied the request, writing that the "‘specter’ of something purely hypothetical plainly does not warrant an adjournment."
We're looking forward to this.
"In the event that a witness cannot testify in the courtroom unmasked under the new policy, the court can and will take appropriate action," Furman wrote.
Robert Baum, one of the attorneys representing Avenatti, told FOX Business, "we're looking forward to going ahead with the trial."
"We were just concerned that our client's constitutional rights were preserved and the mask issue is an issue that could adversely affect his constitutional rights," Baum said. "If the judge is convinced that the mask is not going to be an issue for the jury and his constitutional rights in that manner will not be violated, we're ready to go. We're looking forward to this."
Avenatti, 50, has pleaded not guilty to the charges in what will be his third criminal trial in two years.
In early 2020, he was convicted of trying to extort up to $25 million from Nike by threatening to tarnish the sportswear giant's reputation unless it met his demands. He has not yet begun serving a 2 1/2-year prison sentence. Last year, a mistrial resulted in California on charges that he cheated clients there. He awaits retrial.
Avenatti and Daniels became primetime regulars in the early days of Trump's presidency. With Avenatti's help, Daniels sued Trump to try to win back her freedom to speak openly about what she claimed was a brief affair with Trump a decade earlier. As a result of the litigation in 2018, a Los Angeles judge ordered Trump to pay Daniels $44,100 in legal fees. Trump has denied the sexual encounter.
In the spring of 2018 Avenatti and Daniels showed up together at a Manhattan court hearing pertaining to raids on the home and office of Michael Cohen, Trump's longtime personal attorney.
Cohen had played a role in a $130,000 hush-money payment to Daniels to buy her silence 11 days before the 2016 presidential election. He eventually pleaded guilty to charges and served a year behind bars before finishing his three-year prison term at home.
With Daniels as a client and his growing reputation as a Trump critic, Avenatti found himself in demand on cable television news programs. He became so popular in some circles that he considered a run for president.
After Daniels signed a book deal, the pair remained close, and Avenatti was enlisted to write the forward to "Full Disclosure," which was released in the fall of 2018. In the book, Daniels revealed details about what she described as her sexual encounter with Trump and communications afterward.
But a half-year after the book was published, Avenatti was charged in three criminal cases, including the fraud he was alleged to have carried out against Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford.
After his arrest, Avenatti insisted in Twitter posts that no money related to Daniels was ever misappropriated or mishandled and that he mostly worked unpaid for Daniels with an agreement that he would receive a percentage of any book proceeds. He said he looked "forward to a jury hearing the evidence."
Opening statements are set for Monday. Daniels is not expected to testify until Tuesday, at the earliest.
Fox News' Marta Dhanis and The Associated Press contributed to this report.