Michael Avenatti is seeking $94 in damages over claims he was mistreated while in federal custody.
Avenatti was placed in the highest-security unit at the Metropolitan Correctional Complex in New York.
Avenatti says guards only gave him "The Art of the Deal" to read, though he contradicted that claim in a past interview.
Disgraced attorney Michael Avenatti claims he suffered mistreatment in federal custody — including only being given former President Donald Trump's "The Art of the Deal" to read — and is seeking $94 million in damages from the Bureau of Prisons.
Avenatti stayed at the notorious Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City while awaiting trial on federal extortion charges in early 2020. In a complaint, first reported by CBS News, Avenatti claims he was subject to "brutal conditions" during his time in MCC's 10 South Block, the highest-security floor in the entire complex.
As the complaint noted, occupants of 10 South are placed there for "special administrative measures, typically reserved for people who pose threats to national security." Avenatti, for example, stayed in a cell once occupied by the notorious drug kingpin Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán and was in custody along with multiple terrorism suspects.
Avenatti previously detailed many of his complaints and claims of mistreatment in federal custody to Politico Magazine for a profile published in December 2021. A former MCC senior executive warden told Politico that Avenatti being housed in 10 South as a white-collar defendant was "an anomaly" and "bizarre."
In custody, the complaint says, Avenatti was subject to "24-hour solitary confinement" for 94 days, constant camera surveillance at all times with a guard always stationed outside is cell, no communication allowed with other inmates, freezing cold temperatures, and no sunlight into his cell.
"There was no plausible security reason for housing Claimant in 10 South. He had never been convicted of any crime, had no history of violence and was not informed of any threat made against him by other inmates," the complaint says."Rather, Claimant's confinement to 10 South was retaliation for Claimant's criticism of President Trump and other federal government employees, including the Attorney General."
To illustrate this point, the complaint says that "when Claimant requested reading material, he was initially refused, and then provided one book, 'The Art of the Deal,' purportedly co-written by Donald J. Trump. Claimant filed several grievances with the Bureau of Prisons but received no responses, nor was he afforded any hearing or process."
Avenatti also claims that a "senior-level MCC employee" pulled him aside and informed him that the then-Attorney General Bill Barr had specifically ordered him to be placed in 10 South.
Avenatti gave a different account on his reading materials to Politico, however, telling reporter Ruby Cramer that he eventually amassed a collection of books including Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Strength to Love," David Sedaris' "Me Talk Pretty One Day," Tim Tebow's "Shaken," and "a thick volume on the history of Iran."
A representative for the Bureau of Prisons told CBS it could not comment on pending legal matters or speak to the treatment of specific inmates in custody.
Avenatti rose to prominence as the attorney representing adult film actress Stormy Daniels in 2018 in her defamation lawsuit against former President Donald Trump, became a mainstay of cable news, and was even floated as a potential 2020 presidential candidate.
But Avenatti quickly fell from grace in March 2019, when federal prosecutors in California charged him with wire fraud and bank fraud, accusing him of embezzling from clients, and prosecutors in New York charged him with three counts in connection with a scheme to extort Nike for $25 million.
Avenatti was convicted of extorting Nike in 2020, and sentenced to serve 30 months in prison in 2021. As Politico noted, the judge in the Nike case cited the conditions in 10 South as a reason for only sentencing Avenatti to 30 months.
Avenatti has been serving his time on house arrest in California. His trial in California, in which Avenatti represented himself, ended in a mistrial in August 2021, but he still is set to face both a retrial in that case and another trial in New York on charges that he embezzled money from Daniels.
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