- Adult-film star Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, is increasing the heat on Keith Davidson, his client’s first attorney.
- He and his clients say Davidson was not working in their best interests.
- Rather, they say, he was working in tandem with Trump lawyer Michael Cohen.
- Avenatti published a pair of emails from Cohen to Davidson last week.
- “The relationship between these two ‘opposing’ attorneys has been anything but traditional,” Avenatti told Business Insider in an email. “Significant questions remain.”
Before Michael Avenatti, there was Keith Davidson:
- Davidson served as adult-film actress Stormy Daniels’ previous attorney, negotiating a $US130,000 hush money payment with President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen just prior to the 2016 presidential election.
- Davidson also represented Playboy model Karen McDougal, negotiating a similar $US150,000 payment for her alleged affair with Trump Federal investigators obtained documents related to the McDougal settlement in the raids on Cohen’s home, office, and hotel room, according to The New York Times.
- And Davidson’s name comes up again in a third Cohen-related settlement – with Shera Bechard, a Playboy playmate who entered into a $US1.6 million agreement brokered by Davidson and Cohen to promise that she would not reveal an affair with Republican financier Elliot Broidy. Broidy said in a statement that he retained Cohen after Davidson recommended him.
As the legal scrutiny surrounding Cohen intensifies, Avenatti has sought to raise questions about Davidson’s conduct and whose interests he had at heart.
‘The relationship between these two ‘opposing’ attorneys has been anything but traditional’
At the heart of the controversy involving Davidson is whether or not he was zealously advocating for his own clients – or if he was working to actually provide the best possible outcome to Cohen and his clients, as Daniels and McDougal allege.
“The relationship between these two ‘opposing’ attorneys has been anything but traditional,” Michael Avenatti, Daniels new attorney, told Business Insider in an email. “Significant questions remain.”
Last week, Avenatti published a pair of emails between Cohen and Davidson exchanged last month.
In one email, Cohen messaged Davidson just days after the FBI raids to say he “lost all my contacts as I had to get a new phone.”
“Please send me all your contact info,” Cohen wrote, adding, “Let me know how you want to communicate.”
In the second email, which was sent from Cohen to Davidson in February, Cohen writes that it is his “understanding that Ms. Clifford has or is seeking the advice of additional counsel regarding the above matter,” referring to Daniels’ real name, Stephanie Clifford.
Cohen added that Davidson “under no circumstances should forward” certain information he described in the email to anyone without Cohen’s written consent.
Knowing what we know now, no wonder Mr. Cohen was doing everything he could to interfere with Ms. Daniels' efforts to get new counsel. He was desperate to avoid the cover-up from surfacing and was afraid that competent counsel would expose him and Mr. Trump. #MoreToCome #Basta pic.twitter.com/FCzzFwcEsP
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) May 11, 2018
And BTW, look at the subject line Mr. Cohen drafted. He has claimed in the case that DD was never a party to the NDA. But he specifically described it as the "PP vs DD NDA" in this email (his words).
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) May 11, 2018
Avenatti told The Daily Mail that he “demanded” the emails from Davidson when asked how he obtained them. Davidson did not respond to a request for comment from Business Insider for this story.
‘He’s in a hell of a pickle’
That’s what Mitchell Epner, a former assistant US attorney for the District of New Jersey and an attorney at Rottenberg Lipman Rich, told Business Insider of Davidson.
“As an attorney, you have a duty to be a zealous advocate for your client, and if what’s been alleged by Avenatti is true and Davidson and Cohen were colluding to sell out Stephanie Clifford to have Davidson pocket a very large sum, that is taking your law licence in your hands,” he said.
Davidson previously denied any insinuation of unethical or inappropriate behaviour. An attorney must disclose any such conflict to a client.
Davidson was contacted by federal investigators as a part of the Southern District of New York’s ongoing criminal probe into Cohen, who has not been charged with a crime. A spokesman for Davidson, Dave Wedge, told The Washington Post that the attorney was asked to provide “certain limited electronic information” to investigators.
“He has done so and will continue to cooperate to the fullest extent possible under the law,” Wedge told The Post in a statement.
Avenatti has zeroed in on the attorney in recent weeks, culminating with his publishing of Cohen’s recent email correspondence with Davidson.
“I don’t think there’s any question that the relationship between Keith Davidson and Michael Cohen was not arm’s length,” Avenatti said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” earlier this month. “It’s unclear as to exactly how close they were. But that was not a traditional relationship among two adversaries.”
Davidson denies he worked to bolster Cohen’s interests over his clients’
Davidson gave an extensive interview with CNN last month, in which he said he believes Daniels and McDougal were telling the truth about their alleged affairs with Trump. But he said the details of the deals he helped negotiate have not been fully disclosed.
During that interview, which took place just days before the Cohen raids, Davidson said he was contacted by Cohen, who encouraged him to reveal what he knew about Daniels and McDougal and their agreements.
“He suggested that it would be appropriate for me to go out into the media and spill my guts,” Davidson said, before saying that an ethics attorney told him it would not be wise.
“I read each of the ladies’ complaints and pleadings. … The recitation of the facts that are contained within those pleadings I do not agree with, and I look forward to an opportunity in an appropriate forum to discuss them,” Davidson said.
Davidson’s law licence was suspended twice within the past decade: Once for 90-days by the State Bar of California for four counts of misconduct in three separate cases, the other for nine days after he failed to pay bar membership fees.
Of that first suspension, Davidson told CNN he “was spread a little too thin.”
In 2011, Davidson represented Daniels in her effort to have details of her alleged Trump affair removed from a gossip website called TheDirty.com. That was when Davidson first spoke to Cohen, he told CNN.
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