On Monday, attorney Michael Avenatti was arrested on charges of fraud and extortion. Now, a high powered lawyer being accused of crime is unfortunately not the most astonishing news these days. However, Avenatti’s indictments could have ramifications for another major case currently gripping headlines: R Kelly’s sexual abuse charges.
Avenatti may be best known as the lawyer for Stormy Daniels, the porn star who accused President Donald Trump and his attorney Michael Cohen of paying her hush-money to cover up an affair she’d had with the then-reality star. Much of Avenatti’s career has in fact been centered around such cases involving “powerful people and powerful corporations.” In regards to Kelly, it was Avenatti who handed Chicago police two videos that allegedly show the R&B singer engaged in sexual acts with underaged girls.
Now, Avenatti is facing serious charges of his own in two states. In California, he was indicted for bank and wire fraud tallying millions of dollars, including embezzling from clients and falsifying tax returns. He was also arrested in New York on extortion charges stemming from threats he made to Nike regarding allegations the company paid high school basketball players and concealed the transactions. Avenatti allegedly demanded $20 million to either keep quiet about the potentially illegal payments or be salaried the sum to investigate the matter within the company.
Kelly’s attorney, Steve Greenberg, believes these charges call Avenatti’s credibility into question. Speaking with TMZ, Greenberg said the “chain of custody” that led to the videos getting to Cook County officials is suddenly murky.
Sources claim Avenatti received one of the tapes from an unidentified individual with a history of attempting to extort Kelly. The man reportedly told prosecutors that he’d received almost a million dollars from Kelly’s team to keep the tape secret. Greenberg pointed out that if the whistle-blower was already paid, how did Avenatti get the tape?
The long and the short of it is that Greenberg thinks the charges against Avenatti provide him with the opportunity to convince a jury that Avenatti lacks credibility. If Greenberg can get them to believe there’s a chance the tape was altered somewhere down the line, that puts a reasonable doubt in their mind, and Kelly could find his case dismissed.
That said, this is only one of two tapes believed to be in the position of Cook County. At the same time, Avenatti expects to be “fully exonerated,” as he said a press conference you can watch below.
While all this is going on, Kelly has been arrested and released twice. He was first held on 10 charges of sexual abuse when a woman paid his $1 million bail. Earlier this month, he was arrested again for unpaid child support. This time, he was bailed out by an unidentified benefactor.