Paraplegic man sues, says Avenatti kept settlement money

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — A paraplegic man previously represented by Michael Avenatti has filed a lawsuit alleging the embattled lawyer neglected to pay him millions he was due in a settlement with Los Angeles County.

Geoffrey Johnson filed the lawsuit Tuesday against Avenatti and his former associates.

It claims they neglected to pay him after the county cut a $4 million check in 2015 in a settlement over severe injuries suffered in Sheriff's Department custody.

Johnson, who became paraplegic following a suicide attempt in jail, said Avenatti told him he would be paid once a trust had been established. Instead, Avenatti began sending him monthly $1,900 checks to purportedly front him some money, according to the lawsuit filed in Santa Ana.

Johnson said he learned he was duped earlier this year when Avenatti was charged in federal court with bank and wire fraud. Avenatti has pleaded not guilty and denied the allegations.

Avenatti said in a statement that the lawsuit claims are false and frivolous and that Johnson previously agreed he had conducted himself ethically.

Avenatti rose to fame representing porn actress Stormy Daniels in her battle to be released from a nondisclosure deal she had signed regarding an alleged affair with President Donald Trump. He is frequently in the media and at one point contemplated running for president.

But Avenatti is now often on the defensive with criminal charges in New York and California, a former law associate seeking to collect a judgment against him, and a request by the California State Bar to place him on involuntary inactive enrollment.

Johnson said he has lost more than the settlement funds in the process, including a deal to buy a house and his Social Security benefits.