MATTHEWS: Disgraced hot-shot lawyer Michael Avenatti the latest media darling to fall from grace

Michael Avenatti departs a scheduled sentencing at Manhattan federal court, Thursday, July 8, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

One by one, many of the media darlings from the Trump era have taken rather dramatic falls from grace.

Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who in 2020 could do no wrong and was treated like a king and a shining example of how to lead through a pandemic, is now immersed in two major scandals. One of them involves a nursing home order that critics say was responsible for the COVID-19 deaths of thousands of elderly residents at senior care facilities, and the other involves multiple allegations of sexual harassment and, worse, a claim of an assault in one case.

Rebekah Jones, a fired former IT staffer with the Florida Department of Health, was portrayed in 2020 as the woman who would ultimately expose Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as a fraud who was hiding the true number of coronavirus cases and deaths. As it turns out, Jones was the one thoroughly exposed as the fraud, with news outlets only giving her scant attention now when they think she has information that can help bolster their own weak campaigns against DeSantis.

The latest media darling to lose his rock-star status is high-profile lawyer Michael Avenatti.

Mr. Avenatti shot to fame when he began representing adult-film star Stormy Daniels, who was allegedly paid $130,000 to keep an alleged affair with Trump secret. In the time span of a little over a year, Avenatti appeared hundreds of times as a guest on a number of news programs, promising the goods against Trump and talking tough, vowing that Trump would not serve out what ended up being one term in office.

The media absolutely lapped it up. He was painted as a possible 2020 contender. Some called him a “beast” who Trump was afraid of. Others likened him to “the Holy Spirit,” who would be America’s savior for taking down the media’s No. 1 enemy.

As it turns out, Avenatti is the one who took the spectacular fall. In April 2019, he was charged with multiple counts of fraud, perjury, embezzlement, and tax evasion, among other things. And just last week, Avenatti, who was convicted in February 2020 of attempting to extort millions from Nike, was sentenced to two and a half years in prison.

During the sentencing, Avenatti reportedly cried as he spoke somewhat remorsefully to the judge.

Though the judge didn’t give him the maximum sentence recommended under the federal guidelines, he nevertheless let him have it, rebuking him in a way that left no doubt to his colleagues in the legal profession just how big of a scumbag he actually was.

“Mr. Avenatti had become drunk on the power of his platform, or what he perceived the power of his platform to be,” Manhattan federal court Judge Paul Gardephe noted. “He had become someone who operated as if the laws and rules which apply to everyone else didn’t apply to him.”

And as a result, he was going to pay the price.

Unfortunately for Avenatti, his time before a judge and jury is far from over. Though he’s scheduled to begin serving his sentence on Sept. 15, he’s also set for a new trial this week in California, where he’ll be tried on multiple counts of tax fraud.

In a recent opinion piece, assistant Wall Street Journal editorial page editor Michael Freeman asked if “the criminal sentencing of CNN’s favorite lawyer [will] lead to any media reform?”

The answer, of course, is no. Because if there’s anything we learned during the four years of Trump’s administration, it’s that there is no shortage of people ready and willing to take advantage of an easily and willingly duped media, as long as both share the common goal of taking down a Republican.

Media analyst Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym Sister Toldjah and is a regular contributor to RedState and Legal Insurrection.