9:44am PT by Ashley Cullins
Michael Avenatti Enlists Mark Geragos for Legal Advice Amid Assault Probe
Stormy Daniels' attorney and aspiring presidential candidate Michael Avenatti turned to a top Hollywood lawyer to handle the recent accusations of domestic violence following his Nov. 14 arrest, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.
Mark Geragos, a veteran litigator whose clients include former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick and Chris Brown, was consulted when Avenatti was facing the potential of a felony domestic violence charge over an alleged incident with actress Mareli Miniutti.
Miniutti on Nov. 19 was granted a temporary restraining order against Avenatti, who has vehemently denied the accusations. In a declaration filed in L.A. County Superior Court, she claims the two had been dating since October 2017 and lived together from January until last week. On Nov. 13, she says, they argued about money and he called her an "ungrateful bitch." Miniutti says he hit her with pillows, grabbed her wrist and dragged her out of their apartment in her underwear, according her declaration. The actress says she ran inside, put on pants and went down to the building's lobby, where she waited with security until a friend picked her up. Avenatti was arrested the next day.
Miniutti had asked the court to seal her request for a TRO, claiming the media has been "relentlessly" trying to find her and she feels unsafe. The court declined to seal the records because she didn't provide Avenatti with notice of the ex parte request. A hearing is set for Dec. 10.
Avenatti has steadfastly maintained his innocence and last week sent a letter to his building managers asking them to release to his attorneys and the LAPD video from "any and all security cameras at the building which captured footage related to the alleged incident." He shared a screenshot of the text in a tweet, which followed several other posts criticizing TMZ's reporting on the situation and demanding a retraction and apology.
The L.A. District Attorney's office on Nov. 21 announced that it wouldn't pursue a felony charge, and it has referred the matter to the city attorney's office "for misdemeanor filing consideration." A source with knowledge of the situation says getting the DA to drop the matter was Geragos' primary task, and moving forward he'll serve as an adviser, not as Avenatti's litigator.
His next challenge is likely helping Avenatti navigate the fallout of the bombshell Daily Beast story in which Daniels said her lawyer sued Donald Trump for defamation against her wishes. "I'm tremendously grateful to him for aggressively representing me in my fight to regain my voice," she told the website. "But in other ways, Michael has not treated me with the respect and deference an attorney should show to a client."
She also hinted that she may be hiring a new attorney and said that she doesn't know how the money that has been donated to her legal defense fund is being spent. In a statement published in the same story, Avenatti says he has "always been an open book with Stormy."