Michael Avenatti announced on Twitter Thursday that he is joining the legal team defending the activist charged with illegally climbing the Statue of Liberty at her upcoming trial in Manhattan federal court.
Protester Therese Patricia Okoumou was charged with trespassing after partially scaling the monument on July 4, a move she said was designed to draw attention to the plight of immigrants and protest President Donald Trump's policies.
“Patricia and I are both passionate advocates of mothers, fathers and children separated at our southern border as a result of the draconian policies of Donald Trump and his cronies,” Avenatti tweeted. “I look forward to assisting in her defense and cause.”
Avenatti emerged from obscurity to become a polarizing force over the past year — representing porn star Stormy Daniels and an accuser of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, leaking confidential financial reports on ex-Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, musing about a Democratic presidential run and facing arrest for domestic assault.
Okoumou’s civil rights lawyers Ron Kuby and Rhidaya Trivedi said they welcomed Avenatti to the team, but did not expect him to file an appearance in court that would allow him to participate in the trial before Magistate Gabriel Gorenstein on Dec. 17.
“He is playing an important advisory role,” Kuby said. “ . . . More lawyers are good.”
Kuby said he expected Okoumou, 44, of Staten Island, a naturalized citizen from the Congo, to testify at trial about the immigration crisis and “why the issue of family separation caused her to rise to the occasion.”
Avenatti has been a lightning rod for publicity, and so has Okoumou.
She has shown up in court wearing clothing with slogans directed at Trump, entertained reporters by singing anti-American lyrics outside court, and said the “team” helping her make the most of her celebrity includes advisers on public relations, social media, fundraising and fashion.
Kuby said Okoumou and Avenatti had mutual acquaintances that led to his involvement.