LOS ANGELES (AP) — A California judge on Monday ordered Stormy Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti to pay $4.85 million to an attorney at his former law firm, the first time the potential presidential candidate is being held personally liable in the case.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Dennis Landin issued the ruling after turning down a request from Avenatti to have the matter moved to federal court, which the opposing side called a delay tactic.
Avenatti did not appear at the court hearing and never filed opposing arguments in the case.
The judge said Avenatti must pay the money because he personally guaranteed a settlement with Jason Frank, who had worked at his former firm.
Frank had alleged the firm misstated its profits and that he was owed millions.
Avenatti, who is toying with a possible 2020 presidential run, told The Associated Press on Monday that Frank owes him and the firm $12 million “for his fraud.” He did not provide details.
The ruling follows a court ruling from a U.S. bankruptcy court judge who ordered Avenatti’s former firm to pay $10 million to Frank in May. The $4.85 million is in addition to that judgment.
In July, the Justice Department accused Avenatti of making misrepresentations in the bankruptcy case and said his former law firm owed more than $440,000 in unpaid federal taxes.
Avenatti’s lawyer said at the time that the matter had been resolved. The Justice Department insisted that settlement negotiations were continuing but the debt was still owed.
A federal judge last week dismissed Daniels’ defamation lawsuit against Donald Trump, saying the president made a “hyperbolic statement” against a political adversary when he tweeted about a composite sketch that Avenatti has released.
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, sued Trump in April after he said a composite sketch of a man she said threatened her in 2011 to keep quiet about an alleged affair with the real estate mogul was a “con job.”
Avenatti has appealed the ruling.