On Feb. 14, disgraced lawyer Michael Avenatti was found guilty on all charges of trying to bilk $23.5 million from Nike, and now faces up to 42 years in prison. But there’s one thing for him to be happy about: He’s finally been moved out of the downtown Manhattan jail cell he despises.
The attorney, who represented porn star Stormy Daniels in a failed 2018 suit against Donald Trump, was arrested last March and charged with attempting to extort the shoe brand over illegally funneled payments to college basketball players.
In January, ahead of his trial, he was transferred from a California facility to the notorious 10 South — a jail deep inside the Metropolitan Correctional Center in TriBeCa that Avenatti’s Miami-based attorney Scott Srebnick described to The Post as “sheer dehumanization.”
In a January letter of protest, Srebnick complained that the temperature of the 8’-x-10’ cell was in the mid 40s and that his client was “forced to sleep with three blankets … [and] not permitted to shave.” In the summer the temperature reportedly becomes debilitatingly hot.
Avenatti was transferred to 5 South, a general population facility, on Thursday, after one of his defense attorneys, Danya Perry, wrote an appeal to MCC — saying Avenatti had reached a “breaking point.”
“[Avenatti] was in a cell where everything he does is watched. He showered in view of cameras. He couldn’t control the lights [which reportedly never turn off],” Srebnick added of his client’s old 10 South cell. “There was no privacy.”
Avenatti’s not the only famous tenant who’s been made miserable by the conditions at 10 South. In 2017, the same cell housed Mexican drug cartel kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, whose lawyers called the conditions “excessively punitive.”
Michael Lambert, who heads up a law firm that represented El Chapo, told The Post that the conditions of 10 South — a special housing unit that is primarily designed to hold terrorists and others who would face threats from the general jail population or be a threat themselves — are “nothing short of torture.”
“The air conditioner blows dirty air and puts out weird noises that make it difficult to sleep,” one of El Chapo’s lawyers, Mariel Colon Miró, told The Post. “There are no vending machines, no water bottles, no fresh air or sunlight. There are very small windows, but they have frosted glass, which blocks out the light.”
In a letter sent to the prison while El Chapo was there, she complained that he could “taste and see mold coming out of the faucet.”
Often characterized as a “SHU” (Special Housing Unit), 10 South consists of six solitary-confinement cells. According to Miro, each contains a sleeping pad on the floor, plus a toilet, a sink and a shower.
One hour per day, Monday through Friday, Avenatti was escorted to a room characterized as a “solitary cage” — a cramped, dark space with a stationary bike and a TV. No time was spent outdoors. The exercise room, said Srebnick, “has a slat through which the wind blows.”
The prison is also said to be infested with vermin. “I saw roaches; I saw rats,” Miro said. “I heard them scratching through the walls all the time.” A former inmate of 10 South told Gothamist that the rodents are “so big, it seemed like they could only be in the sewer.”
At Avenatti’s new home in 5 South, general population privileges include 92 hours out of the cell per week, during which prisoners have unlimited (but monitored) email access, cell phone privileges, television privileges and library access.
In April, Avenatti will be tried in the same courthouse for allegedly stealing $300,000 from Daniels. He will also later be tried in California on charges of ripping off clients, scamming bank loans, evading taxes and lying during bankruptcy proceedings. At some point, he will be sent to a federal penitentiary.
For now, he is glad to see 10 South in the rearview.
“The human mind can take only so much,” said Srebnick.
With additional reporting by Melkorka Licea
Original Post https://nypost.com/2020/02/22/michael-avenatti-moved-to-different-jail-after-hitting-breaking-point/