Michael Avenatti says courtroom mask mandate infringes on constitutional right to face accuser

Posted 113 days ago


Michael Avenatti’s legal team on Saturday requested his trial in Manhattan against his former client, porn star Stormy Daniels, be pushed back two weeks, claiming that the court’s mask mandate violates his constitutional rights to encounter witnesses "face-to-face."

Daniels has accused Avenatti of cheating her out of about $300,000 in proceeds she was supposed to collect on a 2018 advance from a book about her alleged affair with former President Donald Trump.

Opening statements in the trial are scheduled to begin on Monday, though Daniels is not expected to testify until Tuesday, at the earliest.

Avenatti’s legal team filed a motion Saturday, arguing that the Southern District of New York’s mask mandate, requiring everyone in the courthouse remain masked – including trial witnesses – absent proof of a same-day negative COVID-19 test.

"This policy raises the specter that witnesses at Mr. Avenatti’s trial will be masked during their testimony in violation of Mr. Avenatti’s Sixth Amendment fair trial and Confrontation Clause rights," Avenatti’s legal team wrote.

"Accordingly, Mr. Avenatti objects to proceeding to trial under this policy and moves for an immediate two-week adjournment of the trial to February 7, 2022, the date originally set by the Court on November 2, 2021."

The Sixth Amendment’s "Confrontation Clause" ensures that criminal defendants will have the right to be "confronted with the witnesses against him." According to Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute, the "Confrontation Clause" was intended to prevent the conviction of a defendant upon written evidence with the defendant having had the opportunity to face their accusers.

Citing court precedents, Avenatti’s legal team said there is presently no public policy interest in proceeding with the trial while witnesses are allowed to testif... (Read more)