This is a good result to see, Michael Avenatti being put behind bars for this long. I will tell you why. It’s a well known fact that there are two criminal justice systems, one for the wealthy and one for the poor. That’s not cynicism, that’s a realistic assessment of things. Therefore, the fact that a high powered, wealthy attorney like Avenatti can actually end up being sentenced to a total of 19 years in prison is fairly phenomenal. This restores faith in the system.
The story of him keeping settlement money that he obtained for the mentally ill, paraplegic man is especially heart rending. Los Angeles Times:
Johnson won a $4-million settlement of a suit against Los Angeles County. The money was wired in January 2015 to Avenatti, who kept the bulk of it and lied to Johnson about it. From his wheelchair at the sentencing, Johnson told Selna that Avenatti “really broke me.”
“Next to the incident that caused me to become paralyzed, meeting Michael and having him steal my money is the worst thing that has happened to me,” he said.
Avenatti also admitted stealing from a $2.75-million settlement that his client Alexis Gardner obtained from her former boyfriend Hassan Whiteside, a pro basketball player then with the Miami Heat. Avenatti, who during his crime spree drove a Ferrari, used most of that money to buy a private jet. Selna has approved the government’s request to confiscate the eight-seat Honda HA-420 plane.
Gardner told [Judge] Selna that Avenatti was a “psychotic con man” who thought nothing of “stepping on all of the small people.” He left her fearful, she said, of anyone who shows kindness. “I don’t know if it’s real,” she said. […]
Avenatti’s fraud was “cruel,” “callous” and “calculating,” they wrote, and his tax cheating was “massive.” Avenatti stole $3.2 million in federal payroll taxes that his company, Global Baristas U.S., collected from employees of its chain of Tully’s Coffee outlets but failed to pass along to the government, prosecutors said.
“Defendant did not commit his crimes to support his family, pay child support, or for any other arguably mitigating reason; to the contrary, he stole from his clients to live an extravagant lifestyle while some of his victims could barely make ends meet,” they [prosecutors] wrote in the memo.
“Michael Avenatti is a corrupt lawyer,” U.S. Atty. Martin Estrada said after the sentencing. “He portrayed himself as someone who fought for the little guy, but in fact he only cared about himself and his own ego.”
And his ego had him contemplating a run for president of the United States — as a Democrat. I, for one, didn’t think it was such a bad idea. That was when I was buying into the superman persona that he portrayed on his website, where his sheer brilliance shone as brightly as his race car jumpsuits.
He was a James Bondesque playboy with intellect, ability and sheer fortitude — so we were told. And then the Daily Beast did an eexposé which revealed that the only thing James Bondian about him was his lavish lifestyle, which, now we find, he made from stealing.
I hate dirty cops, crooked lawyers and bought judges. I am glad that one of them has been brought to justice.
And it is a shame. Avenatti was a brilliant law student and a very successful lawyer. If he had stayed in the light he would have had a great life, by any rational measuring stick. And if he wanted to get into politics and do that right, he might well have become a U.S. Congressman or more. But, he got seduced by the dark side and now he’s in the slammer.
Andrew Stolper, an attorney who worked at Avenatti’s law firm in Newport Beach and often clashed with him, said the audacity he displayed in committing such a wide breadth of crimes seemed to be rooted in narcissism.
“None of it makes any sense other than he deluded himself into thinking he could get away with it,” Stolper said. “If you sit down and try to rationally figure out why a successful lawyer would resort to stealing money from his clients and at the same time elevate himself to the national stage, there’s not enough hours in a lifetime to figure that out.”
Now you know why the fable of Icarus has lasted through the many centuries. Daedalus told Icarus, don’t fly too close to the sun, your wings will melt. But Icarus was invincible. He owned the sky. Until he went splat.