Michael Avenatti’s lawyer is complaining about his client being held in the same New York City prison cell that once housed notorious Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.
Mr. Avenatti, who is a high-profile lawyer and longtime Trump foe, has been detained at the Metropolitan Correction Center in Manhattan since his arrest last week for allegedly violating his bail conditions. He is to remain there while he awaits a criminal trial on accusations that he tried to extort payments from athletic apparel giant Nike.
Avenatti attorney Scott Srebnick said in a letter to U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe that his client is being held on a floor at the detention center that houses individuals charged with terrorism.
He requested that Mr. Avenatti be relocated to the general population, saying the stringent security has made it impossible to prepare for his extortion trial.
“There is an officer outside his cell 24 hours a day and two cameras focused on him,” Mr. Srebnick wrote. “The temperature in his cell feels like it is in the mid-40s. He is forced to sleep with three blankets. Not surprisingly, he has been having great difficulty functioning. He has not been permitted to shave.”
The prisons’ warden, M. Licon-Vitale, fired back Tuesday that relocating Mr. Avenatti to the general population is not feasible.
“Due to Mr. Avenatti’s high profile case, his notoriety, Mr. Avenatti’s placement is for his own safety,” he wrote to Judge Gardephe.
The warden said Mr. Avenatti had not been placed under special administrative measures, which limits his contact with others. Mr. Avenatti will be able to keep legal materials in his cell, meet with lawyers and make phone calls.
The Metropolitan Correctional Center has held some of the country’s most high-profile offenders. It was where billionaire sex offender Jeffrey Epstein was housed when he was found dead in his cell in August.
Mr. Avenatti was arrested this month in Los Angeles for allegedly violating the terms of his bail conditions on charges he defrauded clients and hid money from creditors. He was transferred to New York last week. Mr. Avenatti is accused of attempting to extort Nike by claiming he would disclose damaging information that the company allegedly illegally paid families of basketball recruits unless it paid him between $15 million to $25 million to conduct an internal investigation, according to prosecutors.
He also is accused of defrauding former client, porn star Stormy Daniels, who alleged an affair with Mr. Trump. The president has denied the accusation.
If convicted on all of the charges lodged against him, Mr. Avenatti could be sentenced to more than 300 years in prison.
• Jeff Mordock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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