California judge orders porn star Stormy Daniels to pay $293,000 in Trump legal fees
Porn star Stormy Daniels must pay President Trump nearly $293,000 for his attorneys’ fees and another $1,000 in sanctions after her defamation suit against him was dismissed, a federal judge in Los Angeles ordered Tuesday.
Trump’s attorney, Charles Harder, had requested nearly $390,000 in fees, but Judge S. James Otero cut the amount by 25%. He also wanted a nearly equal amount in sanctions, but received only $1,000.
Attorney Michael Avenatti, who represents Daniels, tweeted the order “will never hold up on appeal.”
Daniels alleges she had an affair with Trump in 2006 and was paid $130,000 as part of a nondisclosure agreement days before the 2016 presidential election.
She sued him after he dismissed her claims of being threatened to keep quiet about the tryst as a “total con job.” The judge threw out that case in October.
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, still has a case pending in Los Angeles challenging a nondisclosure agreement she signed with Trump’s then-lawyer Michael Cohen to prevent her from discussing the alleged affair.
“If Stormy has to pay $300k to Trump in the defamation case (which will never hold up on appeal) and Trump has to pay Stormy $1,500,000 in the NDA case (net $1,200,000 to Stormy), how is this a Trump win?” Avenatti tweeted.
Harder defended a nearly $390,000 legal bill and asked for an equal amount in sanctions as a deterrent against a “repeat filer of frivolous defamation cases.”
Otero previously noted that fees by Harder’s firm — as high as $840 an hour — were reasonable but the 580 hours spent on the case appeared to be excessive.
Daniels alleges she had a one-night affair with Trump. She sued him earlier this year seeking to break a nondisclosure agreement she signed days before the 2016 election about the tryst as part of a $130,000 hush money settlement. Trump has denied the affair, but essentially acknowledged the payment to Daniels.
Despite the deal to stay quiet, Daniels spoke out publicly and alleged that five years after the affair she was threatened to keep quiet by a man she did not recognize in a Las Vegas parking lot. She also released a composite sketch of the mystery man.
She sued Trump for defamation after he responded to her allegation by tweeting: “A sketch years later about a nonexistent man. A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)!”
Otero ruled in October that Trump’s statement was “rhetorical hyperbole” against a political adversary and was protected speech under the 1st Amendment.
Although the lawsuit didn’t get far before Otero tossed it, he said it was a “one of a kind” case that demanded a fair bit of legal work. Daniels has appealed Otero’s decision and Avenatti said Monday that he expects to prevail in a higher court.
Avenatti also said he will be seeking attorney’s fees against Trump in the ongoing hush money case and he anticipates being awarded a figure that “dwarfs exponentially” what Trump is seeking in the defamation case, possibly exceeding $2 million.
Trump’s lead attorney previously said the fees and unspecified monetary sanctions were earned because of the extraordinary nature of the defamation case and because of Avenatti’s gamesmanship.
“This action is virtually unprecedented in American legal history,” Harder wrote in court papers. Daniels “not only brought a meritless claim for defamation against the sitting president of the United States, but she also has engaged, along with her attorney, in massive national publicity.”
In a related case, Daniels has alleged that her former lawyer, Keith Davidson, colluded with Trump’s former personal lawyer Cohen to have her publicly deny the affair with Trump.
Cohen has pleaded guilty to several felonies and admitted funneling money to Daniels to keep her quiet about an affair she has said she had with Trump.
Avenatti was arrested last month on suspicion of domestic violence.
Prosecutors declined bringing felony charges against Avenatti. They are investigating whether he should face a misdemeanor charge for allegations that he roughed up a girlfriend. Avenatti has denied wrongdoing.
The Cohen and Davidson lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court is on hold until May.
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