Michael Avenatti, the attorney for porn actress Stormy Daniels who became a political celebrity and potential contender for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, has been arrested on a domestic violence charge.
TMZ, the Hollywood Reporter, KABC, the Associated Press, and BuzzFeed News reported that Avenatti was arrested on Wednesday on “suspicion of felony domestic violence.”
The Los Angeles Police Department confirmed the arrest in a tweet, and said Avenatti’s bail was set at $50,000; he was released later on Wednesday. Police did not identify the person against whom Avenatti is accused of violence.
Update: We can confirm that Michael Avenatti (DOB: 02-16-71) was booked this afternoon on a felony domestic violence charge (273.5 PC). His bail is set at $50,000.— LAPD HQ (@LAPDHQ) November 15, 2018
According to BuzzFeed News, Avenatti told reporters on Wednesday: “I have never struck a woman. ... I am not going to be intimidated from stopping what I am doing.”
TMZ initially reported that the incident involved Avenatti’s estranged wife, Lisa Storie-Avenatti, but her lawyer disputed that account in a statement to BuzzFeed, saying “there has never been domestic violence in her relationship with Michael and ... she has never known Michael to be physically violent toward anyone.”
While it attracted relatively little attention as Avenatti’s star rose during 2018, Storie-Avenatti has accused her husband of emotional abuse before. In court documents filed by Storie-Avenatti’s attorneys and published by Fox News, she describes Avenatti as “emotionally abusive,” describing one incident in detail:
For example, on Sunday, December 17, 2017, I offered for him to be with [redacted, thier child] for 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. with a nanny present. Petitioner took umbrage with the request for a nanny. On December 17, Petitioner showed up with his 15-year-old daughter, [redacted], and demanded access to the house (Petitioner did not say whether he was interested in seeing [redacted, their child]). I had the nanny take [redacted] upstairs and went outside to talk to Petitioner. Petitioner immediately started yelling at me to let him into the house and started to videotape me with his phone. Petitioner also threatened me that he would be staying at the house every night in the coming week. I told Petitioner to stop making a scene and that he was scaring [redacted] who was hiding behind a pillar. He said that [redacted] was not scared and was there to be his witness. Petitioner continued to yell at me and at some point he must have called the police, who arrived. I heard Petitioner tell the police he wanted access to the house. The police declined Petitioner’s request and later told me that this was going to be a nasty divorce.
Fox News noted that Avenatti denied this allegation:
Avenatti had a different recollection of the incident. He denied to Fox News that there was verbal abuse and said he never threatened to stay in the house against his wife’s wishes, though he added that, “if I did, that was my right under California law.”
He said the police were actually supportive of him, but “stated they could not grant me access, but if I wanted to force access I could because I had every right to the home.”
Avenatti became a national political figure by serving as Stormy Daniels’s attorney as she revealed her alleged affair with Donald Trump, and hush money payments made by Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen, to the public. The scandal led to Cohen pleading guilty to eight criminal charges in federal court.
Avenatti also represented Julie Swetnick, who alleged that she saw now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh engage in sexual misconduct at parties. And he has openly explored the idea of running for president in 2020 as a Democrat, arguing that Democrats need a fighter who could take on Trump at his level.
At the very least, Avenatti is similar to Trump in one important way: Both have faced serious accusations of abuse against women.