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Jury selection continues in Michael Avenatti's Nike trial

LARRY NEUMEISTER
FILE - In this Dec. 17, 2019 file photo, attorney Michael Avenatti arrives at federal court to enter a plea to an indictment charging him with trying to extort up to $25 million from Nike in New York. Avenatti stood to greet 120 prospective jurors who came to a New York courtroom Monday, Jan. 27, 2020 too fill out questionnaires for his trial on charges he tried to extort millions of dollars from Nike. As they entered, jurors seemed largely unaware of Avenatti as his lawyers and others stood around him. But U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe told the potential jurors that they were being considered to decide a criminal case involving charges of extortion and honest services wire fraud against Avenatti. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Opening statements are likely to occur Wednesday in the attempted extortion trial of a California attorney whose representation of porn star Stormy Daniels in her legal fight with President Donald Trump catapulted him to fame.

Prospective jurors were questioned Tuesday by a judge seeking unbiased people to hear the trial of Michael Avenatti. The questioning was not completed, although the jury selection process was nearing its end.

U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe also disallowed plans by Avenatti's attorneys to show exhibits to jurors and play a 2-minute snippet of a recorded conversation during opening statements. Prosecutors objected on the grounds that the exhibits were not yet approved as evidence.

Meanwhile, Avenatti's lawyers appealed a California judge's recent decision to disallow bail for the 48-year-old defendant. Avenatti's lawyers complained again Tuesday that their client's incarceration has made it difficult to prepare for trial.

Gardephe said he'll shorten the trial day by two hours to give Avenatti time to meet with his lawyers in the courtroom before he is returned to his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center.

Answers to a brief questionnaire filled out by about 120 prospective jurors on Monday confirmed that most of them had heard of Avenatti or the charges against him. Most said it would not affect their ability to be impartial.

As Gardephe questioned one potential juror Wednesday, she mentioned that she had seen a spoof of Avenatti on “Saturday Night Live.” Avenatti laughed.

Prosecutors said Avenatti tried to extort between $15 million and $25 million from Nike last March after he threatened to reveal proof that the sportswear giant was making illicit payments to families of NBA-bound young athletes. Avenatti has denied the charges in this case and in two other criminal cases.

Later this year, Avenatti faces trial in Manhattan on charges that he cheated Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, out of the proceeds of a book deal. He also faces trial in Los Angeles on charges that he defrauded clients and others out of millions of dollars.

Gardephe said last week that he'll allow mention of Daniels and Trump at Avenatti's trial over prosecutors' objections because he “can't pretend there was sort of an immaculate conception here where Mr. Avenatti suddenly became this incredibly public lawyer magically.”