(RNS) — With her lawsuit against her former attorney Michael Avenatti beginning Monday, Stormy Daniels, the former porn star who was once paid to keep silent about her relationship with former President Donald Trump, is defending attacks against her religious beliefs.
Lawyers for Avenatti have been trying to discredit Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, saying in a June 2020 court filing that “Ms. Clifford has made any number of bizarre, fantastical claims that call into serious question her truthfulness, mental state, and ability to competently testify.”
The “bizarre” claims focus, according to the document, on various statements made by Daniels’ in interviews about her paranormal work and psychic history. The filing also notes that Daniels’ says that “she is a ‘witch’ who practices witchcraft and can rid people of spirits (a “service” for which she charges).”
Daniels is currently a paranormal investigator and produces and stars in her own paranormal show Spooky Babes. She is also tarot reader, medium, and energy worker.
Federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York allege that Avenatti forged documents to steal $300,000 dollars from Daniels’ book advance and then used the money for personal expenses and to pay his employees’ salaries.
Avenatti, who was indicted on charges of wire fraud and identity theft in May 2019, has since denied any wrongdoing, stating on Twitter, “No monies relating to Ms. Daniels were ever misappropriated or mishandled” and he looked forward to a jury reviewing the case.
In reaction to Avenatti’s lawyers’ assertions, Daniels stated in June 2021 public Facebook post, “Let me get this straight. They are going to use my religious (beliefs) and profession to discriminate against me.”
“This is literally a modern-day witch hunt,” she wrote. “The precedent this sets moving forward is absolutely terrifying! It opens the door to attack and discrimination against every person that identifies as something other than Christian, reads tarot, is a medium and works in energy healing and paranormal in any capacity.”
Federal rules of evidence prevent a witness’s “religious beliefs or opinions” from being admissible in court to “attack or support the witness’s credibility.”
In November 2021, Avenatti’s lawyers requested the court issue a subpoena of Daniels’ mental health records, including drug use and counseling. According to a letter filed November 18, the defense believes that these documents will help the court assess Daniels’ “competence and credibility” as a witness.
The letter was sealed by the court but made public by Daniels’ herself, who once again responded publicly on Facebook, saying the request should scare everyone in the paranormal field.
“They have also brought religion into the argument, which should scare ANY and ALL of you who identify as something other that [sp] Christian,” she wrote.
All responses and other correspondence regarding the subpoena request have been sealed by the court until after Daniels testifies.
In her Facebook statement, Daniels said that she has no mental health records to share and called the request, along with its disregard for her spiritual beliefs, “a blatant and disgusting attempt to publicly shame someone for seeking mental health treatment.”
On December 6, U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman granted the defendant’s request for the subpoena. All documents, if any, would be sent directly to the court for assessment. Daniels’ attorney quickly responded that there were no such mental health records.
Judge Furman has reportedly since prohibited the defendant’s lawyers from asking Daniels’ about her mental health during cross-examination, but he would allow questions about her spiritual beliefs and her paranormal work, according to the Courtroom News Service.
Opening arguments are scheduled to begin Monday, January 24 in Manhattan. Both Daniels and Avenatti are scheduled to testify.
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