LA County prosecutors decline to file felony charges against Michael Avenatti, refer case for misdemeanor consideration
Posted November 22, 2018 12:48 a.m. EST
(CNN) — The Los Angeles County District Attorney's office declined to file felony domestic violence charges against attorney Michael Avenatti on Wednesday, choosing instead to refer the case to the Los Angeles City Attorney's office for consideration of misdemeanor charges.
"A case presented today by Los Angeles police involving attorney Michael Avenatti has been referred to the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office for misdemeanor filing consideration," a spokesperson for District Attorney Jackie Lacey said in a statement.
In Los Angeles, the county district attorney's office is responsible for filing felony charges while the city attorney's office considers misdemeanors.
Avenatti responded to the district attorney's decision on Twitter.
"I am thankful that the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office has rejected filing any charges against me after a fair, careful, and thorough investigation. I have maintained my innocence since the moment of my arrest," he wrote. "This Thanksgiving, I am especially grateful for justice."
The Los Angeles City Attorney's office told CNN it "will review the case and have no further comment."
The original complaint
Los Angeles police arrested Avenatti last week on suspicion of felony domestic violence, following a complaint by Mareli Miniutti, a woman whom he was dating. On Monday, Miniutti was granted a temporary restraining order against Avenatti in civil court.
In a declaration filed as part of the request for a restraining order in Los Angeles Superior Court, Miniutti, a 24-year-old actress, said she and Avenatti had been dating since October 2017 and living together since January of this year.
She alleged two altercations. She said that last week, she and Avenatti began fighting about money, leading to him calling her an "ungrateful, f***** bitch."
Miniutti said the altercation turned physical and accused Avenatti of forcefully hitting her in the face with pillows, grabbing her wrist and arm and dragging her across the floor, causing scratches to her side and leg.
She said in the declaration that the other alleged altercation happened in February but police were never called.
CNN has attempted to reach Miniutti multiple times, but she has not responded to requests for comment. Her attorney, Michael Bachner, told CNN the decision by the county district attorney's office was not a surprise.
"Given the nature of Ms. Miniutti's injuries, we are not surprised by the decision not to bring felony charges," Bachner told CNN. "However, we are confident that misdemeanor charges are warranted."
Avenatti has vehemently denied the allegations against him, telling CNN he never laid a hand on Miniutti and that he expects to be fully exonerated.
Avenatti's attorneys -- Evan Jenness and Richard Beada -- disputed Miniutti's account in a statement given to police on Monday.
"Ms. Miniutti and Mr. Avenatti had an argument while in Mr. Avenatti's apartment during which Ms. Miniutti behaved in a volatile, agitated and irrational manner. However, Mr. Avenatti did not inflict any corporal injury or cause any traumatic condition upon Ms. Miniutti," Avenatti's attorneys said.
They also said Avenatti's statements are bolstered by witnesses, as well as surveillance video in the halls, elevator and entrance to the building. There is, however, no mention in the attorneys' statement of any video inside the apartment where the alleged incident took place.
In an email Tuesday evening, Bachner told CNN: "Mareli Miniutti stands by the accuracy of her statements to the LAPD. The suggestions contained in Mr. Avenatti's counsel's letter to the LAPD are vindictive, contrary to the evidence, and unworthy of further reply."
Both Avenatti and Miniutti are estranged from their respective spouses.
After the arrest, Avenatti's wife, Lisa Storie Avenatti, whom he is currently divorcing, defended him through her attorney.
"My client states that there has never been domestic violence in her relationship with Michael and that she has never known Michael to be physically violent toward anyone," said Valerie Prescott.
Miniutti's husband, Michael Miniutti, said they had been separated since January 2017.
He defended Miniutti, telling CNN, "The only thing I can say is: In Mareli's defense, she was never aggressive. She never put me in an aggressive state of mind or anything like that. She's a very calm, well-mannered, respectful individual. Very polite. Classy woman. And that's it. That's all I can say on her behalf."