Michael Cohen arrives to court in New York, Wednesday, May 30, 2018.

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Lawyers Have Words At Hearing Over Seized Materials In Cohen Raids

May 30, 2018 - 5:23 pm
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NEW YORK (AP) — Stormy Daniels' attorney has withdrawn his request to get a formal role in the legal negotiations over files the FBI seized from President Trump's personal lawyer.

Michael Avenatti said he wanted a role in the case so he could ensure that any confidential records or recordings related to Daniels weren't improperly disclosed.

But he withdrew the request after a court hearing Wednesday in Manhattan in which a judge told him that while he is free to speak out now, he would have to end his "publicity tour on TV and elsewhere" if he entered the case.

U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood also said Avenatti would have to stop saying that Cohen is guilty of something.

Wood also set a June 15 deadline for lawyers for Cohen and Trump to make attorney-client privilege claims over data seized in April raids, saying it was important not to delay the criminal investigation.

Wood said a special taint team of prosecutors will make determinations after that date.

Wood presided over a hearing at which a prosecutor revealed that the contents of a shredder and two Blackberry devices were all that remained to be turned over to a court-appointed special master screening evidence for attorney-client privilege. Also reviewing the materials are lawyers for Cohen, Trump and the Trump Organization.

Cohen's lawyers asked to be allowed to review materials from the April 9 raids of Cohen's office and home until mid-July, but Wood said she had to balance their needs to protect their client with the need of prosecutors to pursue their criminal fraud case against Cohen.

Cohen did not speak during the court proceeding, which lasted more than an hour and featured a colorful argument between lawyers for Cohen and Trump on one side and Avenatti on the other as they discussed Avenatti's public statements on behalf of his porn-star client.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, has said she had sex once with Trump in 2006. Trump denies it. Daniels was not in court Wednesday.

Stephen Ryan, an attorney for Cohen, argued that Avenatti had acted outrageously by releasing banking information related to Cohen publicly and by criticizing Cohen in dozens of television appearances.

Wood noted that Avenatti would have to stop making comments about his perception of what he believed was wrongdoing by Cohen if he wanted to formally intervene in Cohen's efforts to protect materials seized from violations of attorney-client privilege.

Cohen's lawyers said they had finished studying about a third of the materials that were seized and were working around the clock.

Special Master Barbara Jones said in a letter Tuesday that lawyers Cohen, Trump and the Trump Organization have designated more than 250 items as subject to the privilege. She said the material includes data from a video recorder.

Jones said more than a million pieces of data from three of Cohen's phones are ready to be given to criminal prosecutors, and more than 12,000 pages of documents from eight boxes that survived attorney-client privilege scrutiny already have been given back to prosecutors. More than a dozen electronic devices were seized or copied in the raids, and Jones said she has not yet received data from three seized items.

The raids on Cohen were triggered in part by a referral from special counsel Robert Mueller, who separately is looking into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Wood became involved after Cohen came to court, complaining that he feared attorney-client privilege would not be protected. Trump also expressed those concerns on Twitter.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, has said she had sex once with Trump in 2006. Trump denies the affair.