NEW YORK (AP) — The jury considering the fate of California lawyer Michael Avenatti on charges that he cheated his prized client Stormy Daniels out of a large chunk of her book proceeds said Friday that one juror was refusing to look at evidence and was deciding the case based on her feelings and emotions.
In the note, the jury foreperson told U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman that the juror “is refusing to look at evidence and is acting on a feeling.”
“She does not believe she needs to prove her side using evidence and refuses to show us how she has come to her conclusion,” the note said. ”Not going on any evidence, all emotions and does not understand this job of a jury.”
At one point in the note, the jury foreperson underlined the first word, saying: “Please help us move forward.”
The note came early in the second full day of deliberations.
Furman rejected a request by Avenatti, who is representing himself, that he call an immediate mistrial. Instead, Furman told the jury that it must follow its pledge to base any decision on the evidence.
Prosecutors argued that the note, which followed a note a day earlier claiming jurors were deadlocked on the first charge of wire fraud, was grounds to inquire further about the juror and possibly have her removed from the jury if she refused to consider evidence.
The judge said he’d follow a “deliberate and incremental approach” in which jurors are encouraged to follow evidence to a conclusion.
He said if the impasse persisted, then the trial “might be in mistrial territory, but I don’t think we’re there yet.”
The judge also warned lawyers on both sides to refrain from public statements about evidence after Avenatti complained in a letter to Furman that Daniels had appeared in a broadcast interview Friday to complain the jury might penalize her for testimony about paranormal events.
During two days of testimony, Daniels, a porn actor whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, said that she sometimes communicates with dead people.
The jury is deciding whether prosecutors proved that Avenatti committed wire fraud and aggravated identity theft by taking nearly $300,000 of the $800,000 advance his client received for her autobiography. Avenatti has insisted that he had a good faith reason to pocket some of the money.
Avenatti appeared frequently on cable television news programs in 2018 as he represented Daniels in lawsuits against former President Donald Trump. The lawsuits were aimed at freeing Daniels from the terms of a $130,000 payout she received days before the 2016 presidential election to silence her about claims that she had had a sexual encounter with Trump a decade earlier.
Avenatti, 50, was considering running for president himself when his rise in popularity in Democratic circles was interrupted by his March 2019 arrest on charges that he tried to extort up to $25 million from Nike with threats to spoil its reputation if the sportswear giant did not meet his demands.
The same day, he was charged in federal court in California with cheating clients and others out of millions of dollars. The Daniels case was brought weeks later.