The arrest occurred outside the disciplinary hearing in which the State Bar of California has accused the hard-charging, tough-talking attorney of using a doctored document to scam a client out of nearly $840,000, funneling money from a lawsuit settlement fund to his own personal use.
The State Bar of California, the official attorney licensing agency, has sought to put Avenatti on “involuntary inactive status,” setting in motion a timeline for disbarment proceedings.
During a break in testimony, members of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, who are prosecuting Avenatti in a separate criminal matter in Orange County, parleyed with Avenatti's team of lawyers and took the lawyer into custody.
"I understand that Mr. Avenatti has been arrested by the federal authorities for violating the terms of his release," said attorney Steven Bledsoe, who represents the alleged Avenatti victim in the State Bar case and was present when the arrest occurred.
Avenatti was taken into custody at around 6 p.m. PST. When the court resumed, his lead counsel in the disciplinary case, Thomas Warren, told the court that in connection with a criminal matter in Santa Ana, Avenatti was unable to return to court.
Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles, confirmed to The Daily Beat that Avenatti was arrested on allegations of violating the terms of his pre-trial release. Mrozek declined to go into details, as the documents in the case are under seal. "I do expect him to appear in federal court in Santa Ana tomorrow," he said.
As Avenatti was being led out of the courthouse, the normally garrulous lawyer said simply, "Completely innocent."
Best known for his public feud with President Trump, Avenatti has criminal matters pending on both coasts. He faces a slew of federal charges in Los Angeles and New York in cases involving alleged extortion, theft of millions of dollars from clients, cheating on taxes and lying to investigators.
The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District, Geoffrey S. Berman, informed the judge in the New York case of Avenatti's arrest in a letter. It said federal prosecutors in the Central District of California had secured the arrest warrant "with respect to potential violations of the conditions of pretrial release" in connection with the case pending in the Los Angeles area.
Avenatti pleaded not guilty to the charges in April. In New York on a separate case he faces charges that he allegedly demanded millions to stay quiet about claims about Nike paying high school basketball players in an effort to steer them to Nike-sponsored college basketball programs.