In a plot twist absolutely no one needed, Michael Avenatti wormed his way into the Nxivm sex cult case on Wednesday, apparently having attempted to insert himself onto Clare Bronfman's defense team. Bronfman, of course, is the Seagrams liquor heiress accused of bankrolling the fraudulent "self-help" group; Avenatti, as you're doubtless aware, is the former Stormy Daniels attorney accused of attempting to extort upwards of $20 million from Nike.
Honestly, the overlap makes as much and as little sense as anything else that's happened this week.
At a hearing in Brooklyn federal court yesterday, U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis reportedly inquired as to whether or not Bronfman had quietly met with Avenatti about joining her counsel. One of Bronfman's attorneys, Mark Geragos—incidentally, an alleged co-conspirator in Avenatti's extortion case—admitted to Garaufis that yes, he had told the prosecution that Avenatti would be joining the case.
Adding to the courtroom drama, Bronfman fainted after a sidebar with her attorneys and Garaufis about the admission, and was carted out of the hearing on a stretcher by an EMT squad. According to the NY Post, they recommended Bronfman be taken to a hospital: An openly frustrated Garaufis reportedly ordered everyone to come back to the courtroom today, so they could pick up the Avenatti discussion where they left off.
On Monday, police arrested Avenatti in Manhattan, minutes after he tweeted about a press conference in which he planned to drop some big and damning news about the athletic gear giant, Nike. Prosecutors say that Avenatti and an unspecified "client" threatened to "blow the lid" off alleged employee scamming if the brand failed to cough up $15 to $25 million for an internal investigation it hadn't asked Avenatti to conduct. At the same time, the U.S. Attorney's Office for Central California charged Avenatti for wire and bank fraud, arguing that he had falsified his income tax returns and also failed to pay them. Earlier this year, Avenatti was also arrested (but ultimately not charged) on suspicion of domestic violence, and at every legal turn, has loudly proclaimed his innocence.
Bronfman, meanwhile, has been charged with money laundering and identity theft for her involvement with Nxivm, the alleged cult and sex trafficking ring that prosecutors say inducted women into a secret sorority and branded them as "slaves." Bronfman has been accused of footing the bill for this group's crimes, and also, of helping its leader, Keith Raniere, steal login information for "perceived enemies'" email accounts; use a dead woman's credit card and bank account to pay for Raniere's personal expenses; and smuggle a woman into the country illegally. At the time of her arrest, a lawyer for Bronfman asserted her client's innocence, but Nancy Salzman—Nxivm's co-founder—has since pleaded guilty.
Jumping on Bronfman's legal team is a weird flex for a man who has previously positioned himself as an advocate for women. Best known for representing Daniels in her lawsuit against President Donald Trump, Avenatti also involved himself in Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings, tweeting out sworn affidavits from women who'd witnessed and experienced the nominee's alleged misconduct firsthand. Seen from another angle, though—the angle of opportunism and self-promotion—it's a completely regular flex for a person who loves the limelight. I suppose it all depends on your perspective, but I for one would like to unsubscribe.