Michael Avenatti trial abruptly ends after judge faults prosecutors

By Jan Wolfe and Jonathan Stempel

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A federal judge on Tuesday declared a mistrial in the government's embezzlement case against celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles confirmed to Reuters in an e-mail.

U.S. District Judge James Selna in Santa Ana, California, said Avenatti was entitled to a new trial because prosecutors had failed to turn over relevant billing-related evidence. Avenatti, representing himself, argued that the mishandling of the data hampered his ability to mount a defense.

Selna said he did not find any evidence of intentional misconduct on the part of prosecutors, according to media reports by the trade publications The Recorder and Law360.

Selna's ruling abruptly ended a jury trial that began in late July and was nearing its conclusion.

The U.S. Attorney's Office handling the trial was not immediately available for comment. Avenatti and his stand-by lawyer could not immediately be reached.

Avenatti shot to fame representing porn actress Stormy Daniels in lawsuits against then-U.S. President Donald Trump, before a swirl of criminal charges ended his legal career.

He was being tried in California on 10 criminal counts for allegedly embezzling millions of dollars from clients.

Avenatti faces 26 additional criminal counts in California, with those counts to be tried later.

Last month, a federal judge in Manhattan sentenced Avenattito 2-1/2 years in prison for trying to extort Nike Inc. Avenatti is appealing.

(Reporting by Jan Wolfe; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Jonathan Oatis)