Prosecutor to hold hearings on abuse claim against Avenatti
By BRIAN MELLEY
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Los Angeles prosecutors said Friday that they have declined to charge attorney Michael Avenatti with misdemeanor domestic violence but will hold hearings on the allegations.
Actress Mareli Miniutti got a restraining order against Avenatti in November after accusing him of dragging her by the arm across a bedroom floor of his apartment following an argument.
Avenatti, who represents porn actress Stormy Daniels in her lawsuits against President Donald Trump, has denied the allegations and said on Twitter that the decision by prosecutors vindicates him.
"I am extremely thankful that after three thorough investigations, one by the LAPD, one by the LA District Attorney, and one by the LA City Attorney, the truth of my innocence is now established and no charges are being brought," Avenatti said.
Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for City Attorney Mike Feuer, said charges could be brought on allegations of spousal abuse or battery after informal hearings in which the alleged victim and Avenatti will be able to present their case.
The decision to hold the closed-door hearing reflects that the case is "on the fence," said defense lawyer Stephen G. Rodriguez, who is not involved in the matter.
Cases that typically go to a hearing involve a suspect who has no criminal record and the evidence is weak, such as one person's word against another.
"It becomes a he said-she said situation and those are hard to prosecute," Rodriguez said. "It's absolutely good news for him. He believes he's innocent and this is a step in that direction. Otherwise they would have already prosecuted him."
Of the clients Rodriguez has represented at such hearings, only about 2 percent end up with charges being filed, he said.
Avenatti is still under court order to stay away from Miniutti and not contact her.
The Los Angeles district attorney declined to press felony charges in the case in November.
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