Lawyer Michael Avenatti is seeking $94 million from the Federal Bureau of Prisons over alleged mistreatment while he was behind bars.
In a complaint filed to the BOP, Avenatti, 50, claims he was kept in brutal conditions in the notorious 10-South prison wing in Manhattan in retaliation for his public dispute with former President Donald Trump. The alleged depravity included 24-hour solitary confinement, no recreation time, and only one book to read: Trump's The Art of the Deal.
"Claimant suffered personal injuries, pain and suffering, severe mental anguish, emotional distress, humiliation, indignities, and embarrassment, degradation, damage to reputation, and loss of natural psychological development, all of which continue to date and are likely to continue into the future," his lawyers said in a filing obtained by CBS News.
Avenatti was sent to 10-South in February 2020 while awaiting sentencing after he was convicted of all charges against him for attempting to extort as much as $25 million from Nike. Prosecutors said Avenatti told Nike one of his clients had evidence the company paid recruits to attend colleges that had teams sponsored by Nike, and he demanded the money stay quiet.
10-South is the most restrictive prison wing in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City. It is designed to hold extremely dangerous criminals. It has been used to hold multiple high-profile criminals such as "El Chapo" (Joaquin Guzman) and Jeffrey Epstein. Some of its former inmates, including Guzman, have expressed concerns about conditions in the prison wing.
Avenatti's lawyers claimed he was kept in Guzman's former prison cell. They said he was housed near "four accused terrorists and a former CIA employee accused of treason." His lawyers refer to Trump and former Attorney General William Barr in the complaint.
"There was no plausible security reason for housing Claimant in 10 South," his lawyers said. "He had never been convicted of any crime, had no history of violence, and was not informed of any threat made against him by other inmates. Rather, Claimant's confinement to 10 South was retaliation for Claimant's criticism of President Trump and other federal government employees, including the Attorney General."
When news broke that a judge denied Avenatti's initial request to move to home confinement, Trump tweeted, "Gee, that's too bad. Such a fine guy. Presidential aspirations you know." Although Trump's Twitter account has since been suspended, a copy of the tweet can be found in the Trump Twitter Archive.
At one point during his stay at 10-South, Avenatti requested reading material from prison staff, according to the complaint. The staff initially declined to give him something to read but then gave him a copy of Trump's book, the complaint said.
Avenatti estimated he had been kept in solitary confinement or locked-down status for 94 days. Last June, he was sentenced to 30 months in prison for the Nike case. He has been serving out his sentence since April 2020 in home confinement in California. Avenatti is also facing federal charges for alleged embezzlement from some of his former clients.
Avenatti gained fame in 2018 for representing porn star Stormy Daniels in her claims against Trump. Avenatti was a frequent guest on TV, presenting himself as a fierce critic of the former president, and even toyed with the idea of running for president prior to being locked up.
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