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How Stormy Daniels was forced to defend herself at lawyer’s trial

Daniels, who was once paid to keep silent about her relationship with Donald Trump, was a key witness for the prosecution of her former lawyer, Michael Avenatti.

Adult film actress Stormy Daniels arrives for the 49th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles in this Feb. 11, 2007 file photo. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles, File)

(RNS) — Stormy Daniels makes no apologies about who she is, whether a former adult film star, a paranormal investigator or a witch. But testifying about her life with her erstwhile lawyer doing the cross-examining, she said, put her self-confidence to the test.

“I wasn’t on trial, but he put me on trial,” said Daniels of her former attorney, Michael Avenatti. “He put my beliefs on trial. He put my credibility and integrity on trial.”

Daniels, a former adult film star who was once paid to keep silent about her relationship with Donald Trump, was a key witness for the prosecution in a federal case against Avenatti for wire fraud and identity theft after he was accused of stealing $300,000 of a book advance given to Daniels.

After the first day of the trial Jan. 24, Avenatti fired his lawyer and represented himself for the remaining days, eventually facing Daniels in cross examination. This was the first time Daniels had seen Avenatti since firing him in February 2019, she told Religion News Service in an interview.


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She felt a sense of betrayal, she said. The two had spoken nearly every day during their work together, she said, and she trusted him. Finding out that he’d been stealing from her, she said, “I felt stupid.” 

After Avenatti’s indictment in May 2019, he and his legal team made it clear that discrediting her as a witness would include attacking her spiritual beliefs and her recent foray into the paranormal industry.

In a June 2021 court filing, lawyers for Avenatti stated that Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, “made any number of bizarre, fantastical claims that call into serious question her truthfulness, mental state, and ability to competently testify.”

Included in those “fantastical claims” were Daniels’ practice of witchcraft and her interest in the paranormal.

In November 2021, the defense team requested the court subpoena Daniels’ mental health record to prove their assertions. The court agreed, but no documents were produced. “They don’t exist,” Daniels said.

Throughout her five-and-a-half hours on the stand over two days, Daniels was asked repeatedly about her adult film career, her new paranormal show “Spooky Babes” and even about her haunted doll, Susan. She believes that he wanted her to say, “It’s not real,” but the pressure “didn’t work.”

Avenatti only briefly mentioned witchcraft.

“He didn’t go as hard on that as I thought he would,” Daniels said. “But he definitely outed me.” He backed down, she believes, due to her 2021 public Facebook posts regarding religious freedom.

FILE- Adult film actress Stormy Daniels, right, accompanied by her attorney, Michael Avenatti, left, walk away after speaking to the media outside federal court, on April 16, 2018, in New York. Avenatti, the once high-profile California attorney who regularly taunted then-President Donald Trump during frequent television appearances, was introduced Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022, to prospective jurors who will decide whether he cheated porn star Stormy Daniels out of book-deal proceeds. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

FILE- Adult film actress Stormy Daniels, right, accompanied by her attorney, Michael Avenatti, left, walk away after speaking to the media outside federal court, on April 16, 2018, in New York. Avenatti, the once high-profile California attorney who regularly taunted then-President Donald Trump during frequent television appearances, was introduced Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022, to prospective jurors who will decide whether he cheated porn star Stormy Daniels out of book-deal proceeds. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

“This was not a religious trial,” she said in the interview. “I just can’t imagine that this would have been allowed if I was Christian or even some of the other major religions.”

He tried to create a “tone that I was all of these negative things to distract from the facts of the case,” she said. “I held my own.” After three days of jury deliberation, Avenatti was found guilty. He is scheduled to be sentenced in May.

“I’m a solitary practitioner,” said Daniels, who has a triple goddess tattoo on her neck and sometimes works with the goddess Lilith. She practices an intuitive form of magic, developing spells on her own rather than strictly following books. She tends an herb garden at the back of her home, which was once a Spiritualist church, and offers oracle readings and jar spells over the internet and in person at Wicked Wednesdays market in New Orleans.

“From November 2020 to November 2021, I did 250 oracle readings,” Daniels said. At first, she admitted, people just wanted a reading because she was Stormy Daniels, but that changed when people realized she was serious.

Daniels is also a professional medium and paranormal investigator, a career she only formally launched three years ago. However, her paranormal experiences began as a child, she said. When she was 11, she was awakened by an eerie feeling, and she ran outside only to spot a wolf in the distance. She felt immediate calm, and the animal disappeared. The wolf has since become a spiritual symbol for her.

Daniels, who did not grow up with formal religious teachings, began to explore witchcraft in high school, like many teens. “I was definitely into it,” she said. “I had crystals, read all the witchcraft books, set intentions.” After her entertainment career took off, she abandoned her practices, although always identifying as a witch, if only in secret.

Daniels was further driven from esoteric practices when, at the age of 23, she had a vision of a child’s death. The fear of having seen the event and being unable to stop it was enough to force Daniels to abandon occult practice.

“It was so traumatic for me; I shut everything down.”

Daniels stayed away from all things occult and paranormal until she moved into a haunted house in New Orleans, where she experienced the same eerie feeling. The stories she tells from her time in that house are something out of a horror movie, including lost time, unusual rot and flea infestations.

While she left that house gladly, the experience renewed her interest in the paranormal and witchcraft. 

Today, Daniels is a professional paranormal investigator and the co-host of “Spooky Babes,” which, she said, showcases only about 10% of her actual investigations.

“You must treat the dead as you would the living,” she said when talking about her strategy as a medium and investigator. She also uses her witchcraft knowledge in house cleansing, pairing it with her partner’s Catholic-based practices.

While paranormal work may seem to have overtaken her career, Daniels also owns Swamp Trash Events, a Louisiana-based event-planning company, and is taking a Reiki course to enable her to return to one of her childhood passions, caring for horses.   

Daniels will be restarting her adult film career as a director, having already signed a contract for four films, and she is also talking to a documentary filmmaker about telling her story.

“My main goal after this trial is to change the laws regarding being able to discriminate against someone who has previously been in the adult film business.”


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She laughed, “As if I’m not doing enough.”

The recent trial gave Daniels a new perspective. It was hard to be on the stand, she said, “but I was just a witness. I can’t imagine what that would be like for a victim of a violent crime.”

“This is why so many women don’t pursue justice or back down or don’t say their true beliefs,” Daniels added, and “not just women.”

“This trial opened my eyes to how many people suffer like this.”