Disgraced MSNBC and CNN star Michael Avenatti filed a $94 million claim over harsh treatment in jail on orders that “came from the Attorney General,” referring to former President Donald Trump’s then AG Bill Barr.
The claim says: “Since early 2018, Claimant, a prominent trial lawyer, has been an outspoken critic of former President Donald J. Trump. In March 2018, Claimant filed several lawsuits against President Trump on behalf of his client, Stephanie Clifford (a/k/a Stormy Daniels). These lawsuits gave Claimant a platform to expose President Trump’s misconduct, corruption and mendacity. Major television networks interviewed Claimant hundreds of times about the legal proceedings and President Trump.
“President Trump fixated on Claimant as a burgeoning threat to his presidency and re-election campaign. Beginning in 2019, federal prosecutors aggressively pursued charges against Claimant in California and New York.
“On the evening of January 14, 2020, Claimant was arrested and taken into custody by federal agents during a recess in a bar disciplinary hearing in Los Angeles, California. They did so only hours before Claimant was scheduled to take a commercial flight to New York to meet with his lawyers and prepare for an upcoming trial scheduled to start less than one week later.
“The following day, in the matter of United States v. “Avenatti (19-cr-061(JVS)), United States District Court Judge James V. Selna revoked Claimant’s bail and remanded him into custody for allegedly violating the terms of his release. Claimant was held in solitary confinement at Santa Ana Jail in Orange County, California, from January 14 to January 17.
“He was not permitted to shower or leave his cell. On the morning of January 17, United States Marshalls transported Claimant from the Santa Ana Jail to John Wayne Airport, where he was flown to Teterboro Airport in New Jersey and then transported to Metropolitan Correctional Center (“MCC”) in Manhattan, New York. Upon arriving at MCC on January 17, 2020, Claimant met with Associate Warden Lee Plourde (“Plourde”), a prison psychologist, and other prison officials.
“Claimant requested placement in the general population. Instead, he was placed in “10 South,” the most restrictive part of the facility, which is comprised of six to seven cells designed to hold the nation’s most dangerous criminals who allegedly pose significant threats to the interests of the United States. He was placed in a cell previously used to hold Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, the notorious most wanted international drug kingpin.
“He was housed alongside four accused terrorists and a former CIA employee accused of treason; the United States Attorney General had directed these individuals to be held in 10 South under “special administrative measures,” typically reserved for people who pose threats to national security.
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“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.
“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. The brutal conditions at 10 South included 24-hour solitary confinement.
“Prison officials monitored Claimant through two cameras in his cell and forbade him from communicating with other inmates or covering himself while using the bathroom.
“A guard was stationed outside his cell 24 hours a day. Guards falsified sign-in sheets and did not conduct regular walk-throughs as required.
“The frosted windows of Claimant’s cell allowed almost no sunlight. Temperatures at night were frigid. He was restricted from speaking with friends or family. He was not provided fresh air or recreation.
“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. On one occasion in approximately February 2020, a senior-level MCC employee escorted Claimant from a legal visit to his cell.
“The employee, a tall, stocky African-American man, paused in a breezeway, where the two were alone, and asked Claimant if he understood why he was being housed in 10 South. The employee explained that the orders came from the Attorney General. When United States “District Court Judge Selna denied Claimant’s initial request for release to home confinement due to risks associated with Covid-19 in March 2019, President Trump tweeted, “Gee, that’s too bad. Such a fine guy.
“Presidential aspirations you know!” Judge Selna later granted Claimant’s subsequent request for home confinement in April 2020. By the time of his release, Claimant had been held in solitary confinement or under locked-down status for approximately 94 days. “He was permitted to see the sky one time.
“Through the actions of its employees, the United States is liable for the torts of intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, false arrest, prima facie tort, negligence, negligent supervision, negligent hiring, and violations of Claimant’s rights under the United States Constitution and New York State Constitution to due process, exercise of free speech, and equal protection under the law, for which New York law provides private causes of action,” the claim says.