Avenatti to defend himself in California criminal fraud trial

Avenatti faces 10 counts that each carry a 20-year prison term

Disgraced lawyer Michael Avenatti will defend himself as he faces the second of four federal criminal cases on Wednesday. 

Speaking to Fox News, as he entered the federal courthouse in Santa Ana, California, he explained his decision. 

"I’m pro se because I want the truth to be known," he said. 

He was accompanied by lawyer Dean Steward who — until yesterday — was Avenatti’s lawyer of record he has now been named "shadow counsel."

Avenatti faces a slew of charges, including 10 counts of wire fraud that each carry a 20-year prison term.

A U.S. District Court granted the disgraced attorney Avenatti’s request to defend himself against criminal fraud charges in the trial. 

Avenatti, who is charged with various counts of fraud for allegedly scamming clients out of millions of dollars in settlement money, initially asked the court if he could serve as co-counsel in his defense. District Court Judge James Selna rejected that request, prompting Avenatti to submit a "pro se" request to serve in his own defense, Law.com's Meghann Cuniff reported.

The judge asked Avenatti a series of questions to determine whether he was fit to defend himself in the case. At one point, Avenatti was asked if he had expertise with the criminal justice system. Avenatti said he has never tried a criminal case.

"I have knowledge of it your honor, but I would not describe it as expertise," Avenatti said.

Avenatti's request was first reported by Law.com's Meghann Cuniff.


The judge eventually determined that Avenatti could represent himself. His original defense attorney in the case, Dean Stewart, was named standby counsel.

He has another upcoming fraud trial in California and a fourth trial in New York regarding allegations that he siphoned money from his ex-client, former adult film star Stormy Daniels.

Earlier this month, Avenatti was sentenced to more than two years in federal prison for attempting to extort sports apparel giant Nike for as much as $25 million. 


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He was convicted for attempted extortion and other charges in 2020 after he threatened Nike with bad publicity that could hurt the company’s stock price unless it paid him the money.

Fox News' Ross Lee contributed to this report.