Michael Avenatti is no stranger to making headlines. He was the famous lawyer who represented Stormi Daniels in her case against President Trump. He was even rumored to be considering a run at the 2020 presidency. But now the headlines tell a different story. Avenatti is now facing up to 335 years in jail after being indicted by a Southern California grand jury with 36 different charges alleging he embezzled millions of dollars from his clients, failed to pay taxes and perjured himself in bankruptcy cases, along with other charges.
This happened after he was freed on $300,000 bond from being arrested in New York for his alleged role in trying to extort Nike for $25 million. If convicted he could serve an additional 47 years.
The indictment which was over 60 pages alleges that Avenatti was embezzling from 5 clients, one of which was a paraplegic man. He would shuffle the money between the accounts and dole out small portions of what was owed to give them the false sense of security that they were being paid. Because he was illegally taking funds from his clients, the charge of not paying the correct amount in taxes has been added. According to the indictment, the IRS was never paid $3.2 million in payroll taxes from Tully’s Coffee, an independent coffee chain owned by Avenatti.
Throughout it all, Avenatti has maintained his innocence. He tweeted the following:
I intend to fully fight all charges and plead NOT GUILTY. I look forward to the entire truth being known as opposed to a one-sided version meant to sideline me. For 20 years, I have represented Davids vs. Goliaths and relied on due process and our system of justice. Along the way, I have made many powerful enemies. I am entitled to a FULL presumption of innocence and am confident that justice will be done once ALL of the facts are known.
If you’re in legal trouble and don’t have any way to pay for it, the stress can be unbearable. Luckily most law firms do a certain amount of pro bono hours each year. Part of the reason is based on need, and part is based on what the American BAR Association recommends. Clients never have to feel like they aren’t getting the best service just because they can’t afford it. Pro Bono work is done by specialists who are closely supervised to ensure that the best service is rendered.
These are a few of the top U.S. Pro Bono organizations.
Her Justice is an organization devoted to helping women in poverty or domestic abuse throughout New York City. In addition, pro bono attorneys can provide services to clients who need immigration or divorce advice, and also get orders of protection for clients who are still in danger.
My Sister’s Place helps victims of domestic violence, including children, find cheap or free shelter in addition to providing legal aid.
Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts represents low-income artists and non-profit arts organizations.
One of the top ranking pro bono law firms is Jenner & Block. They serve both companies and individuals with financial, employment, and business litigation. The law firm is enormous and provides services internationally as well.
Covington & Burling is another international law firm with their foot in the pro bono door. They advise clients of transactional litigation, regulatory concerns, and public policy.
Human Rights Firstworks with refugees, and helps victims of crimes against humanity find justice. They work on discrimination cases out of D.C., NYC, and Houston. They also offer internships for up and coming law students.
The Innocence Project works to use the most contemporary DNA testing practices available to help exonerate current inmates who they feel weren’t fairly tried and convicted. They have cleared at least 300 people of the crimes they were supposed to have committed. 18 of these victims were currently sitting on death row.
Kids in Need of Defense (or KIND)helps represent the underrepresented. It provides aid to children who have been classified as refugees or immigrants and who don’t have a parent or guardian to watch out for them.
Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (or TLDEF)helps advocate for transgender civil rights to prevent employment discrimination and promote access to health care. They also provide services to help move the name changing process swiftly along.
It seems like wherever you look, Donald Trump is hard at work trying to make someone’s life just a little bit more difficult than it has to be. First, he wanted a travel ban placed on residents of certain “Muslim” countries he decided are associated with terrorism (barring the ones he does business with, of course). Then he wanted to shut out those in Mexico who would seek asylum in the United States.
The good thing is this: wherever you look, there are lawyers and civil rights advocates who shut down Trump’s obviously illegal activities before he can do any real damage.
The best thing about it? A lot of those lawyers are working pro bono. Many of them–thousands, in fact–work for some of the largest law firms in the country. Why? Well, part of the reason that so many lawyers are working against Trump in the immigration department is logistical: it’s easier and it’s safer. Most of their other clients are working in other fields and helping would-be immigrants won’t conflict with other client interests. They can do their thing without having to worry as much.
Another part of the reason is more obvious: Trump is a turd.
Recently, a judge struck down Trump’s plan to block those seeking asylum from entering the country before individual claims were approved. Trump wants it his way (i.e. for all the thousands of potential new immigrants to be held indefinitely in Mexico), but luckily the law on the matter is pretty cut and dry. Congress made its will known and said that those migrants would be allowed to apply for entry at legal border checkpoints.
Trump’s administration has made it clear that the matter is far from over, and that they would fight it tooth and nail in court.
The matter is made even more absurd by Trump’s deployment of troops at the Mexican border, with orders to use lethal force if necessary. The administration uses words like “crisis” and “invasion” to describe the band of tired, dusty, and dirty migrants fleeing persecution and violence. No wonder lawyers are lining up to take these idiots down free of charge. If you can do something to help make things right, then why not?
Trump thinks he’ll win eventually because a dumbed-down version of the aforementioned Muslim travel ban was eventually approved by the Supreme Court after a 5-4 vote. The order allowing migrants to apply for asylum will be in effect through December 19. Then the conversation will begin again.
The McMartin Preschool Trial is considered to be the most expensive trial in United History costing around $15 million. After the initial accusation in 1983, the trial ended in 1990 making it the longest trial in United States History. In the end, there were no convictions and all charges were dropped. So where and how did this all go wrong?
The McMartin Preschool Trial was a trial prosecuted by the Los Angeles District Attorney for alleged day care sexual abuse. The McMartin family operated a preschool in California and were accused of sexual abuse by the children who attended the school.
Initial Allegations – 1983
In August of 1983, a mother of one of the students, Judy Johnson pointed out to her doctor that she believed her son was anally penetrated. Her son identified the adult male as “Mr. Ray” from the McMartin Preschool. Ray Buckley was the grandson of the school’s found Virginia McMartin. There are conflicting reports on whether or not the son agreed with the fact that he was being sexually abused.
Johnson also accused the staff at the school of other acts including sex with animals and witchcraft such as flying. After being questioned Ray Buckley was arrested but was quickly released due to lack of evidence. There was also concern that Johnson’s son was too young to testify in court. This led to the police to send a form letter to all the parents of the students at the McMartin school. The letter said that their child might have been abused and that the parents should question their children about it. You can read the full transcript of the letter here. From this letter, 8 families stepped forward in the allegations of child abuse. Other families came forward with “possible abuse”.
Pretrial Investigations – 1984 to 1987
Johnson was diagnosed with acute paranoid schizophrenia and was found dead in her home in 1986 from complications due to chronic alcoholism. She died before the preliminary hearing.
Several hundred children were interviewed by the Children’s Institute International which is an abuse therapy clinic located in Los Angeles. During this time it was being run by Kee MacFarlane. They faced criticism for their techniques when interviewing children for being highly suggestive and to have children use their imagination about certain events. In the Spring of 1984, it was estimated that 360 children were abused at the McMartin Preschool. Medical examinations were performed and photos were taken of tiny scarring that looked like it could be from anal penetration. In the end, 41 children testified before the grand jury.
Furthermore, some of the allegations against the McMartin Preschool included satanic ritual abuse. Other accusations included witchcraft, flying, underground tunnels, and hot air balloon rides. A lot of the sexual abuse happened in these underground tunnels. However, upon investigation, no such underground tunnels were found. Other allegations included a game called “naked movie star” which was believed to be when the children would be photographed naked by the teachers. During the trial, the game was nothing more than a silly rhyme between children.
Michael P. Mahoney, an expert witness in clinical psychology was highly critical of how the children were interviewed. He referred to them as “improper, coercive, directive, problematic and adult-directed in a way that forced the children to follow a rigid script.” The recordings of these interviews played a huge part in why the jury did not opt to convict anyone.
Also during this time, there were issues with the prosecution office withholding evidence from the criminal defense team. Such evidence included the fact that Johnson was a schizophrenic. One of the original prosecutors left the case for moral and ethical reasons. He also accused the district attorney of lying to the courts and the defense team by withholding exonerating evidence against Ray Buckey.
Trial – 1987 to 1990
Virginia McMartin, Peggy McMartin Buckey, Ray Buckey, Peggy Buckey, Mary Ann Jackson, Betty Raidor, and Babette Spitler were all charged with 115 counts of child abuse involving 48 children. When a new district attorney was assigned to the case, the charges were dropped against Virginia McMartin, Peggy Ann Buckey, Mary Ann Jackson, Betty Raidor and Babette Spitler.
Ray Buckey and his mother Peggy McMartin Buckey were the only ones who remained in custody. Peggy McMartin’s bail was $1 million and Ray Buckey had been denied bail.
During the trial, inmate George Freeman was called to the stand and claimed that Ray Buckey confessed while they shared a cell. It was revealed that Freeman had perjured himself in several cases in exchange for favorable treatment for his criminal cases.
In 1990, after three years of testimony, and nine weeks of deliberation, the jury acquitted Peggy McMartin Buckey on all accounts. Ray Buckey, on the other hand, was cleared of 52 of 65 counts and was finally granted bail. At a press conference following the trial, the jurors believed that the children had been molested but the evidence did not prove that it had happened beyond a reasonable doubt.
The remaining 13 counts against Buckey were retried which led to a hung jury again with a majority of the votes leading to not guilty. The prosecution decided to stop trying to get a conviction and all charges were dropped. It’s important to note that he was in jail for 5 years without ever receiving a conviction.
Most of us have this perception of lawyers as fancy individuals who make too much money, do a lot of work for the criminally insane, and don’t care of anyone but themselves. While that may be true of a few individuals out there, it’s not true of everyone. Lawyers are eternally stressed out because of the pressure associated with helping people stay afloat, and the negative connotation of the word “lawyer” just isn’t fair. Here are a few awesome lawyers you’d want to have a beer with if you ever met them on the street.
Todd Belcore. This guy was named “Young Lawyer of the Year” by the Illinois State Bar Association in 2013 because he’s just plain awesome. He goes above and beyond the call of duty by helping those in poverty find gainful employment when it would otherwise be impossible due to background checks. It’s not that he believes that criminals should have it easy; it’s just that he believes that the foundation of our rehabilitation system should rely heavily on the idea of a second chance. In order to give his clients the best possible chance, he’s taught a whopping 43 workshops on maintaining good conduct in society and how to deal with complicated issues like expungement. He tries to help those who are serving more time than they should in over-crowded jails and prisons (which is most of them here in the U.S.)
David Smith. He does a little bit of everything, and while he’s a jack of all trades, he still manages to be a master of all of them. He works as a law professor, but splits his time to help fund charities, volunteer at an orphanage, and provide services as a pro bono attorney. Right now, he’s working on the Cobell v. Salazaar case in order to keep the United States government accountable for its responsibilities toward Native Americans. The case centers around the Individual Indian trust and its half-million Native American beneficiaries.
Tony Tolbert. Not everyone has to give time pro bono in order to do the right thing. Tolbert sacrificed his home to help a family living in poverty get back on its feet. They enjoyed a year without rent thanks to his “pay it forward” attitude.
You feel like you have been screwed. Yeah, it may be only a few hundred dollars, but on principle … you got screwed.
You have tenants who missed pent payments. You have a mechanic you paid to fix your car, but he didn’t’ fix the car. Your paid roofers to fix a leak and yet the leak is still there.
The amount you are missing is small enough that it would not make sense to hire legal representation and file an actual court claim, but it’s large enough that you can’t’ bring yourself to just forgive it and chalk it up as a lesson learned.
But gosh darn it, o principle … you’ve been screwed. You need to be whole.
Small-claims court is an opportunity for people of the street to be lawyers, representing themselves in a claim for compensatory damages due to a loss from a breach of contract. The court features a judge and the two parties giving their cases for the claim or counterclaim and the judge ruling on a dollar amount based on the evidence provided. If you have ever seen the People’s Court or Judge Judy, this is basically how small claims court works. (Except the judges aren’t necessarily as snarky and opinionated as Judge Judy, as much as we all may like or hate her.)
Most states have a maximum amount of award for a small-claims court case; anything larger than that amount or includes any punitive damages would be bumped up a regular district court and would involve lawyers and all the associated expenses thereof.
Small-claims courts usually handle cases of less than $1,600-$2,000 and usually only require a small filing fee for the claim. The parties involved will have to appear before the judge and present their evidence (payment records, inventory of damages, a contract, etc.) that will support or refute the case. Usually, there is no punitive damage tacked on; it’s is usually decided who was the wronged party and how much did that person lose, and that becomes the award in the case
At some point, virtually everyone gets screwed (or scammed), and many of us are fortunate enough that we don’t lose our life savings or more in the process. But just on principle, even if we lose a few hundred dollars, we may want to pursue some relief if we tried to do the right thing and the other party wronged us by not doing the right thing. And of course, cheaters should never win.
Small-claims court is not something to be abused, but it can be a valuable tool in standing up for your rights when you are always looking to do the right thing by people and you’re not getting cooperation in that endeavor.
In the simplest of terms, embezzlement is when a person steals or misappropriates money and/or property from either an employer, business partner or another person who trusted the embezzler with the asset. This is very different from larceny (theft) as the embezzler has permission to handle the money or property in some aspect but clearly does not have permission to take it. Embezzlement happens when the embezzler uses their position of power and takes the money or property for themselves.
Common Forms of Embezzlement
charging more than the listed price and taking the difference for personal use
taking money from the cash register – even if it’s “borrowing”
depositing vendor checks to the business in a personal account
taking office supplies for personal use
tampering with employee time records or creating a fake employee
moving money from a client’s account to a personal account
taking settlement money from a client and using it for business expenses
adjusting the books to hide any movement of funds
Embezzlement: A Federal, State and Civil Crime
If you’ve been accused of embezzlement there can serious consequences as it can be tried in Federal Court, State Court and there can be a civil claim brought against you. Most cases will be under state jurisdiction but an embezzler can face federal jurisdiction if he embezzled from the government (i.e. taking a person’s social security checks). Penalties include but are not limited jail time, fines, and victim restitution.
The persons who are wronged in the embezzlement also have the opportunity to file a civil trial. A judge can garnish wages, levy a bank account, or put a lien on a property on top of whatever is owed from the victim restitution awards in the state trial to ensure that the victim gets their money back.
Do not go through the process alone, contact a white collar crime criminal defense attorney!
If you’ve been injured and successfully filed a personal injury lawsuit or won a class action lawsuit against an employer, there might be a large sum of money coming your way. Rather than being handed over the award outright, may choose to put their settlements into a support trust. There are many advantages of putting your settlement into a support trust such as:
Asset Protection: Many people are not able to successfully handle their finances and make them stretch long term. In fact, the average length that a personal injury settlement last is 3-5 years a lot less than what people expect when they are receiving funds for future income loss. A settlement protection trust prevents the assets from being used foolishly and protects the income from being seized by creditors and divorce.
However, the only drawback is that the beneficiary will not have direct access to the money. A third party known as a trustee will be in charge of the trust and make distribution of money to the beneficiary when he or she believes it is necessary. The goal of the trustee is to keep the money safe in the trust as long as possible and make sure the money lasts a lifetime. Common reasons for distribution of funds include buying a home, vehicle, and paying for household and medical bills. The trustee should be a professional meaning that they have a bond from the court. They should have experience in investment management and taxation.
Our pets are a part of our family. No matter what is going on, they are there to listen and comfort us without talking back or to bring us endless joy for no reason at all. Pets are not limited to dogs and cats, as many people enjoy the company of other animals like birds, snakes, lizards, fish, turtles, and so on. For the large majority, owning a pet means to own a dog or a cat. Whether that dog or cat is a rescue or a pure breed, you will love them like a child. The last thing you ever want is for your pet to suffer an injury or die, especially if it is in the hands of a negligent individual. If this is the case, you may be entitled to compensation for your loss.
What can I Recover in a Wrongful Death Suit of my Pet?
Pets are a part of the family. If your pet is injured or killed due to the negligent behavior of another individual, it is important that you file a police report and hire an attorney experienced in this field. Some of the things you can recover in a pet wrongful death lawsuit are:
The most common type of compensation for your lost pet is to be compensated for the “market value” of your pet. In other words, you will receive compensation for the cost of replacing the animal.
Recover veterinary costs as long as the animal receives “reasonable treatment”. Reasonable treatment is determined is based on the animal’s health before the injury and the type of injury inflicted.
The value of the animal is determined by factors like the type of animal, the length of your relationship, the quality of your relationship, etc. This is not a common reward for this type of case.
Emotional distress is difficult to recover, but it is possible depending on the state you live in. Emotional distress covers the grief and anguish of losing a pet may cause an owner.
Punitive damages can be rewarded if the individual acted maliciously with intent to kill your animal.
The loss of a pet is tough for anyone to deal with. If your pet was injured or killed by the negligent acts of another individual, you should contact the police immediately and file a police report. After contacting the police, you should contact an attorney that is experienced in this field, as you may be entitled to compensation to recover damages from the loss.
You’ve likely heard about embezzlement in the news and on many a website, but you may not be sure what it means. When a person embezzles money, they’re taking money that they were trusted to manage or handle at some point. Instead of using the money for its original, intended purpose, the individual may set the money aside for themselves, using it to pay their mortgage, go on shopping sprees, make car payments, or even use their new funds to live a more luxurious lifestyle.
Is It a Crime?
Embezzlement is a crime and it’s often considered a premeditated one. The reason the crime of embezzlement is often considered premeditated is due to the fact that the person who allegedly committed embezzlement usually may think about stealing some of the funds and then puts a plan in motion to try to conceal the fact that they’ve used those funds on themselves rather than using the funds on whatever they were intentionally meant for. The exact type of punishment a person will receive for the crime will vary from case to case because each case is unique.
In some instances, when only a small amount of money has been taken, the individual may be required to pay the money back. However, when a larger sum of money is taken, the individual may be looking at the possibility of spending up to 20 years behind bars for embezzling funds. The person may need to start paying off a fine for stealing the money in the first place.
Why Do People Do It?
Some people embezzle funds because they’re in bad situations and are tempted by the cash they’re seeing in front of them when they’re at work. However, it’s not an excuse for their decision to commit such a crime that takes money away from the person, people, or organization it was intended for. Some people even choose to embezzle funds from organizations that are raising money to help other people, which is downright wrong.
There are a lot of different cases of embezzlement that occur in the United States and there is a chance you’ve heard about some of these different cases at some point. If you’re ever in a trusted position where you’re dealing with funds that are meant for an organization or business of some sort, make sure you’re documenting everything and keeping those funds in order. The last thing you’d want to be accused of is committing a crime that is as serious as embezzlement because it could cause you to lose your job, deal with fines, and end up in jail.