Michael Avenatti is representing himself at his criminal trial in Manhattan federal court on Tuesday afternoon after what he called a “breakdown” in the relationship between him and his attorneys.
The disgraced lawyer made a formal request to Judge Jesse Furman that he be allowed to invoke his constitutional right to represent himself in the case after a brief lunch break Tuesday.
During the spiel, Avenatti said there was a “breakdown in the relationship between me and my counsel that goes to the heart of me mounting a defense.”
“I make this decision knowingly and voluntarily,” he said, adding that he could proceed in the case without delay.
After Avenatti made the request, Furman briefly quizzed him to determine if he was sober and mentally sound enough to act as his own lawyer.
The embattled attorney is accused of stealing nearly $300,000 in book-advance money from his former client Stormy Daniels in 2018.
Daniels inked a book deal that year after it emerged she had been paid off by Michael Cohen, who was former President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, to keep quiet about an alleged affair she had with Trump.
“This is an important moment in the case,” Furman said before granting Avenatti’s request.
Avenatti began cross-examining his former paralegal, Judy Regnier, after Furman allowed him to move forward as his own lawyer.
Avenatti allegedly forged Daniels’ signature on a letter to a literary agent in an attempt to funnel book-advance payments into an account he controlled.
The letter worked, and two payments totaling nearly $300,000 were deposited into the account, the feds allege.
The loudmouth lawyer then spent the funds on things like payroll for his failing law practice, as well as a lease payment for a Ferrari, travel expenses, food and dry cleaning, according to the indictment against him.