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tv   Nightline  ABC  January 28, 2022 12:37am-1:06am PST

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♪ this is "nightline." >> tonight, michael of a natty's fall from grace. the man who joined forces with stormy daniels to battle donald trump. >> my attorney and i are committed to making sure that everyone finds out the truth. >> now on trial, accused of lining his own pockets with her money. >> i'm completely innocent. this case should have never been filed. >> questioning his former client on cross examination. sammy the bull. the notorious hitman who says he lived a double life. >> i think i'm two people sometimes. i live a family life, and i'm a gangster. >> the wise guy who gave up john gatty. >> you're a rat, eat the parmesan cheese! >> now reflecting on a long life
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of crime. >> you don't worry about a final judgment? >> i'll worry about that that >> i'll worry about that that day, and we'll see what happens. we all need a rock we can rely on. to be strong. to overcome anything. ♪ to be...unstoppable. that's why millions rely on the strength and financial guidance of prudential to achieve their dreams. who's your rock? ♪
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♪ good evening. thank you for joining us.
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michael avenatti was once a high-flying lawyer who seemed to be everywhere. teaming up with adult film star stormy daniels to take on donald trump. in a new york courtroom today, all that now seems like ancient history. they were an unlikely duo. >> hi, everyone. >> she was the adult film star who accused donald trump of infidelity. >> my attorney and i are committed to making sure that everyone finds out the truth. >> reporter: he was the bold, brash lawyer determined to take the president to task. they were everywhere. stormy daniels appearing on "late night." >> do you think the president is watching right now? i like to imagine him. >> i don't want to imagine him. >> reporter: michael avenatti making the news rounds. >> we're going to respect the process. they can't keep their stories straight. it's going to be laid bare for the american people. >> reporter: now almost four years later, the pair making headlines again, but for a very different story. avenatti is now facing wire
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fraud and aggravated identity theft charges, accused of withholding money owed to daniels from her tell-all book teal. he has pled not guilty. >> i'm feeling great. i'm completely innocent. this case should have never been filed. it's an absolute joke. >> reporter: tonight inside the manhattan courtroom -- >> once stormy daniels took the stand, you can feel the tension in the air as everyone waited with baited breath to hear what she had to say. >> reporter: daniels taking the stand, claiming avenatti stole almost $300,000 from her and lied about it. >> during the direct examination, stormy daniels was an open book. she was bubbly, she was having her typical potty mouth as she was describing the text messages between her and michael avenatti. >> reporter: but during cross examination, the mood shifted. >> it happened at the precise moment when you saw michael avenatti step up to the podium to give that cross examination. you could see that stormy daniels was about to be questioned by someone who used to be a very close friend of
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hers and is now an enemy. it was extremely tense but also great to watch. >> reporter: avenatti built his career as a plaintiff's lawyer. in march 2018, he burst on the scene representing daniels, who made explosive allegations against the new president. >> he was like, wow. you. you are special, you remind me of my daughter. >> reporter: daniels, real name stephanie clifford, alleged in "60 minutes" she'd had an affair with trump in 2006, months after his wife melania had given birth to mr. son, barron. >> did he mention his wife or child at all in this? >> i asked and he brushed it aside, said, "oh, yeah, yeah, don't worry about that, we have separate rooms" and stuff. >> reporter: "nightline" sat down with avenatti after that interview aired. >> i think that people came to that interview with a lot of preconceived notions, as i did, admittedly, before i met her the first time, about who she was. and i think she blew a lot of that out of the water last night. >> reporter: avenatti and
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daniels alleging she had been paid hush money by trump's lawyer weeks before the 2016 election. daniel's lawsuit claiming the nda or nondisclosure agreement she signed in exchange for $130,000 wasn't valid because trump hadn't signed it himself. avenatti adamant the lawsuit was not about the salacious details of an affair between a porn star and a future president. >> this is about the cover-up. this is about a search for the truth. >> reporter: the lawsuit almost daring trump to admit to the alleged infidelity. >> the president doesn't have the >> he's made a career taking on the david and goliath cases. in this case trump was the glide. but michael has become a giant as well. he stated in his own words, he was the right person to take on donald trump because he knew the type. >> reporter: the nda suit against trump was ultimately
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dismissed. but avenatti's star still seemed bright, even entertaining the idea of a run for president himself. >> i think i'd be qualified because i have three things that this president lacks, jim. brains, heart, and courage. >> reporter: then just weeks before the supreme court confirmation hearing of brett kavanaugh, avenatti announced he had a new client. a woman claiming she witnessed sexual misconduct by a teenage kavanaugh, something he denied. some democrats felt he hurt their case against kavanaugh due to the extreme nature of the allegations made by avenatti's client, allowing republicans to dismiss all the claims made against kavanaugh outright. in november 2018, he was arrested on suspicion of come st domestic violence. he was not charged. >> i have never struck a woman. i instead of will strike a woman. >> reporter: march 2019, avenatti was arrested again, this time for trying to extort millions of dollars from nike. >> what you saw in that case was
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a jury convicting him of attempting to extort millions of dollars from a major corporation in what prosecutors say was a desperate shakedown. >> reporter: in april, federal prosecutors indicted him on 36 counts including fraud, perjury, tax evasion, embezzlement, and other financial cripes. the allegations that he stole millions of dollars from his clients, he pleaded not guilty. >> the fraud case in california actually and remarkably ended in a mistrial. avenatti successfully argued that federal prosecutor had withheld exculpatory evidence in the case. so right now we're waiting to see if that case is going to be dismissed on grounds of double jeopardy or if it is going to go to a second trial, a retrial. >> reporter: in july he was sentenced to 30 months in prison for the nike extortion case. >> avenatti if anything knows that he has seen incredible peaks, now he's at an incredible low.
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i think one of the only questions is, is he sort of done falling? could it get any worse? and the answer is, it definitely could. >> reporter: prosecutors in this week's trial argue avenatti stole part of stormy daniels' book advance for her memoir about her affair with trump, which trump has long denied. the scheme allegedly involved avenatti sending a fraudulent and unauthorized letter to daniels' literary agent with instructions to send payments to an account avenatti controlled. avenatti then allegedly used the money to pay his law firm employees, make a luxury car payment, and other personal expenses. the government claims avenatti lied to daniels when she inquired about the status of her advance fees. avenatti arguing this case is just a fee dispute. in a statement to abc news this week, avenatti saying, the government is spending millions of dollars to prosecute me for a case that should have never been filed. meanwhile, they continue to allow trump and his
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coconspirators to walk free and suffer no consequences for their criminal conduct. that is not justice. >> based on all of michael avenatti's legal troubles, especially the conviction in that nike case, he's actually disbarred and not able to practice law as an attorney. however, in this case against stormy daniels, he's representing himself pro se, as anyone is able to do, regardless of whether or not you have a law degree or are barred as an attorney. >> reporter: avenainue to oss e daniels. a feud few would have predicted. up next, the colorful former mobster sammy "the bull." why he turned on john gotti. you are an electric vehicle. electricity powers your heart. want to feel your heart beat faster? drive an electric car. made by a company whose evs have gone five billion miles. for every highway...
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sammy "the bull" gravano makes no apologies for the crimes he committed as a gangster, including murder. he says that was all part of the job. >> this is what the mob does. this is what we do. this is how we live. this is the true side of the mafia. this isn't somebody talking about the mafia. i am part of it. >> reporter: his name, salvatore "the bull" gravano. one of the most notorious gangsters in mafia history. >> sammy "the bull" is a serial murderer. he's a psychopath and a sociopath. >> he's not a serial killer, he was a gangster. >> we kill amongst ourselves according to our rules. it was for what you did. >> reporter: gravano rose through the ranks and became
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second in command of new york's infamous gambino crime family. >> they tell you to kill somebody, did you think of saying no? >> no. not at all. >> reporter: now in his 70s, gravano talks about his life as a mafia hitman in the abc news production "truth and lies: the last gangster." >> new york in the '70s and '80s was like the wild west. bodies all over the place. it was insane. >> the mob was going through a very violent period. it was a dangerous time in the mob's world. >> sammy "the bull" was a street thug who grew up in bensonhurst. he gravitatedd toward the world of organized crime as a young boy. >> did he have options not to join the mob? absolutely. but once you go in, it's all in or nothing. >> it was for money, it was for green, it was for women, it was for fast cars. it was being part of a society, part of a brotherhood.
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>> many of them consider what they did almost military in nature. they consider themselves soldiers. >> they believe when your boss tells you, you have to kill somebody, they feel they're doing the right thing. >> my father said, when i took my oath to cosa up everything. >> a ceremony, 14 guys, one by one they call us into the basement. dim lights. real smoky. there was a picture of a saint on the table. they pricked my finger to get blood out of it. put the blood on the saint. put it in my hand and they lit it. they said, if you betray this brotherhood, may your soul burn like this saint. i really believed in it. with my heart and soul. >> new york in the '80s and '90s was a very, very interesting place. likemp wou pnt of enited ody
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states nhn gti w rise to become such a prominent celebrity. but they did. because new york loves a character. >> in ozone park, which was in queens right over the brooklyn-queens border where gotti lived, he was a hero. >> "thanks, john" hat. john who? >> gotti, of course. >> for what? >> for having a street party. >> do you know anything about john gotti this. >> no, if i did, i wouldn't say. >> reporter: john gotti who changed the world of organied crime, putting the once-secret lifestyle on full display. >> he was over the top. >> he was taking full advantage of his celebrity. >> i think his problem was that he fell in love with himself. he saw himself on televisio, in newspapers. he lost touch with what he was. that he's a gangster, not an
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actor. >> john gotti was so enamored of sammy "the bull,"ade underboss >> me and fa me andst t the body language that they were very close. john gotti trusted him implicitly. >> john bucked, i bit. a lot of people knew that. >> you got it done? >> i got the job done. >> and if he'd said, kill your son? >> my son? i probably would have fought on that one. there's no way i would have killed my son. i would have fought. i would have died with him or i would have died trying or -- there's no way. >> reporter: the fbi had long been working on ways to bring down is new york mafia. their target was john gotti. >> the fbi and new york state's organized crime task force set a trap for gotti. >> so the whole strategy was to put pugs where john was having
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his most secret conversations, where he was going to talk the most about the criminal conduct. he made my job easier. he introduced me to that whole family. >> i don't think any of the old timers would believe that cosa nostra could be run like this in any way, shape or form. >> john starts recognizing that everybody knows and respects sammy. he's the guy interacting with everybody. that becomes a threat to the boss. all of a sudden, i could be replaced by this guy and we don't miss a beat. >> listening to the gotti tapes, it's clear john was setting my father up. >> i realized that john probably eventually would take me out, for no other reason but he wants one show, one boss, john gotti. he don't want anybody to be his equal.
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he don't want anybody in any way, shape or form to shine. and i guess i was shining too much. ye it snd like high oy thing that, in high school, you can throw a strip ball at somebody, we used bullets. >> reporter: sammy "the bull" betrays everything he once pledged a blood oath to, going for one of the most powerful figures in the new york mafia to their most infamous informant. >> they said you are the single most important witness ever to testify against the mob. >> i think i am. an underboss is the highest position who's ever cooperated. but i think i'm in a position of being the most knowledgeable underboss who's cooperated. >> reporter: gravano revealing key details of racketeering and murder. helped put gotti away for life. >> sammy help me shut out of the the rest of the family and bosses and underbosses of other families. i think we totaled over 38
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convictions. he arguably led to the demise of organized crime in new york. >> are you a rat? >> if that's the term you like to use. i don't look at myself as that. i look at it as, i was betrayed. i betrayed him. that's what the mob is. >> reporter: in order to convict john gotti, prosecutors got gravano a reduced five-year sentence for his 19 murders. >> making the deal with gravano did not come without criticism. there was blowback from the family members of people that he killed. >> what do we do? we have no recourse. they said this was okay, they wrapped him in the american flag, and they sent him off. >> reporter: gravano later went into witness protection, leaving the program a year later and writing a tell-all book about his life. while he was able to avoid the mafia's retribution, he was unable to avoid a life of crime. spending another 17 years in
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prison after his arrest for drug trafficking. >> no matter how i feel now, i couldn't change what happened. it was ugly. but i know what people want me to say. it was so ugly, would you change it? yes, the way i feel now. but even looking now, i couldn't. >> are you a good man? >> i think i'm a decent man. >> you don't worry about a final judgment? >> i'll worry about that that day, and we'll see what happens. >> you can stream "truth and lies: the last gangster" on hulu. up next, remembering the millions of lives lost to the nazis on this holocaust remembrance day. your type 2 dia? once-weekly ozempic® can help. ♪ oh, oh, oh, ozempic®! ♪ ♪ oh, oh, oh ♪ ozempic® is proven to lower a1c. most people who took ozempic® reached an a1c under 7 and maintained it.
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♪ finally tonight, honoring the victims on this international holocaust remembrance day. wreaths were laid at the memorial in berlin honoring the 6 million jews and others murdered there by the nazis. in london, landmarks were lit purple to mark the day 77 years
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ago when the auschwitz death camp was liberated. here in new york, 1 world trade and other iconic sites were lit in yellow. never forget. that's "nightline" for this evening. thanks for the company, america. good night.

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