Wednesday, 21 Oct 2020

Michael Avenatti Dragged Girlfriend Out of L.A. Home, She Alleges

A 24-year-old woman whose domestic violence complaint led to the arrest last week of the lawyer Michael Avenatti claims in court documents that he cursed at her and dragged her out of bed and across the floor of a Los Angeles apartment after a dispute about money.

The allegations are included as part of a request by the woman, Mareli Miniutti, for a temporary restraining order against Mr. Avenatti, which a Los Angeles Superior Court judge granted this week.

Law enforcement officials have released scant details about the case, saying only that Mr. Avenatti’s Nov. 14 arrest on suspicion of domestic violence stemmed from an episode in the upscale neighborhood of Century City on the west side of Los Angeles. Hours after his arrest, Mr. Avenatti, who rose to fame representing the pornographic film actress Stephanie Clifford, was released from jail after posting bail. He has strongly denied allegations that he committed domestic violence.

The new court documents, which were filed on Monday and obtained by The New York Times on Tuesday, contain a series of details that describe what Ms. Miniutti alleges took place during the night in question. In the documents, Ms. Miniutti, an actress, refers to Mr. Avenatti, 47, as her “boyfriend.”

In a sworn declaration, Ms. Miniutti said she and Mr. Avenatti dated from October 2017 until Nov. 13, the night she alleges that they began to argue about money and that Mr. Avenatti berated her using expletives.

After the alleged verbal abuse, Ms. Miniutti said, she went to a guest bedroom in the apartment she says they shared to sleep alone. But Mr. Avenatti followed her, according to the declaration, and eventually began “forcefully” hitting her in the face with pillows.

Ms. Miniutti alleges that Mr. Avenatti then “grabbed my right arm and dragged me out of the bed.”

“He dragged me on the floor of the apartment towards and out of the door into the public hallway,” she wrote in the declaration. “I was wearing only my underwear and a T-shirt at the time, and suffered scratches to the bare skin on my side and leg.”

Mr. Avenatti then pulled Ms. Miniutti back into the apartment and initially blocked the door, the declaration says. Ms. Miniutti said she was eventually able to get around Mr. Avenatti and leave the apartment, but he followed her into an elevator, where she says he “repeatedly begged, ‘Don’t do this Mareli, don’t involve them.’”

Upon exiting the elevator, however, Ms. Miniutti said, she talked with building associates and security, before calling a friend who picked her up. She then called the police, and officers took a statement from her, she added. The court filing includes photos that appear to show scratches and bruising.

The Los Angeles Police Department has said that its detectives arrested Mr. Avenatti the next day.

In the same declaration, Ms. Miniutti also alleges that in a separate episode in February, Mr. Avenatti had been drinking and pushed her out of a different apartment and into a hallway. She hit her head on a door, she said, and Mr. Avenatti then threw her shoes at her, striking her in the leg.

Mr. Avenatti, she wrote, “has a history of being very verbally abusive and financially controlling towards me,” adding that he has “made promises to ‘take care of me’ financially and sometimes fails to follow through.”

“I continue to be afraid of” Mr. Avenatti, she wrote, “and do not want him to contact me.”

The temporary restraining order, signed on Monday by Judge Susan L. Lopez-Giss, bars Mr. Avenatti from contacting, harassing or attacking Ms. Miniutti and requires him to stay at least 100 yards away from her until a hearing set for the morning of Dec. 10.

According to IMDB, Ms. Miniutti has made uncredited cameos in the films “Ocean’s Eight” and “How to Be Single.” She is featured in a seven-minute short film titled “The Go Girls.” A representative for the Cabrera Talent Company in Los Angeles said the company used to represent her, but had not been in contact with her for two years.

In a series of tweets since the court documents emerged, Mr. Avenatti has reiterated his claim that he has never abused a woman or committed domestic violence. He has also called for the release of any video footage of the episode captured by building security cameras.

“I am a target,” he said. “And I will be exonerated.”

Mr. Avenatti has positioned himself as a crusading critic of President Trump and a fierce advocate of women’s rights. He has also toyed with a run for president, using Twitter to broadcast his voice and challenge politicians and news personalities to debates.

Based in Newport Beach, Calif., Mr. Avenatti — who is recently divorced — took up residence in a New York City hotel last spring. He has filed three suits against the president and his former personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, this year. Last month, a federal judge dismissed one.

Louis Keene and Andrew R. Chow contributed reporting.

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