Shera Bechard, a onetime Playboy "Playmate" who briefly dated the magazine's founder, Hugh Hefner, filed a lawsuit on Friday naming Michael Avenatti as a defendant, according to Los Angeles Superior Court documents posted online. Avenatti is the attorney for adult film star Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against Donald Trump
But in a rare move, Bechard and her attorney, Peter Stris, asked a judge to seal the lawsuit, and Judge Ruth Kwan agreed, documents show. As a result, the reasons why Bechard is suing Avenatti remain a mystery — at least for 20 days when the suit is scheduled to be unsealed.
There appears, however, to be much more to the Bechard story than a strange legal dispute between Bechard and Avenatti, who was one of four defendants listed by name in the suit. In fact, according to at least one expert on the case writing this week in New York Magazine, the whole thing may revolve around Donald Trump, and a cover-up of one of Trump's more sordid and shocking alleged extramarital affairs.
Who are the main players in this bizarre story?
Shera Bechard: The Playboy model received — or was supposed to receive — a whopping $1.6 million hush money payment negotiated by Trump's own personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen. But the payment was not, allegedly, to keep her quiet about an affair with Trump. Instead, Bechard had an affair with top GOP fundraiser Elliot Broidy, who also impregnated her and paid for her abortion, Mother Jones reported.
Elliot Broidy: The GOP fundraiser admitted his affair with Bechard, but on Monday this week, according to a Wall Street Journal report, Broidy abruptly cut off the installment payments on the $1.6 million hush money sum, saying that Bechard had reneged in her agreement. He claimed Bechard's previous lawyer, Keith Davidson, communicated about the hush money deal with Avenatti; an accusation Davidson calls "false and defamatory," according to the Forward.
Keith Davidson: Bechard's former lawyer is also the previous lawyer for both Stormy Daniels and another Playboy model, Karen McDougal, who also had an alleged affair with Trump and took a $150,000 hush money payment during the 2016 presidential campaign. She later sued, as the New York Times reported. Both McDougal and Daniels, in their separate lawsuits, accused Davidson of colluding with Cohen to arrange the payoffs, in effect accusing Davidson of working to protect Trump rather than his own clients.
Michael Avenatti: Daniels' lawyer has skyrocketed to national celebrity in just the four months since filing the adult film star's lawsuit against Trump and Cohen in March. On Friday, after Bechard's lawsuit was filed, Avenatti posted a statement on his Twitter account saying that he had "no idea" why he was named as a defendant in the suit, speculating that Bechard including him simply "to get publicity."
Avenatti said that he "never represented" Bechard and "was never a party to any agreement with her and I never had any obligation to her." But when asked by the WSJ about the claim that he communicated with Davidson about Bechard, Avenatti demurred, saying, "I'm neither going to confirm nor deny what information I have about this, whether it's all been disclosed yet, or where I learned it."
Peter Stris: A prominent business attorney who, according to the Stris & Maher law firm website, has argued seven cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Stris represented McDougal after she fired Davidson, and on April 18, settled her hush money lawsuit against National Enquirer owners American Media — the company that had paid her $150,000 to keep silent about Trump. Now, Stris represents Bechard in her lawsuit against Avenatti, Davidson and Broidy.
On Friday, Stris shot back on Twitter at Avenatti, saying "you know why you are included in this complaint. You understood that your previous actions might well lead to this when you called our firm and begged us not to sue you several days ago."
But Avenatti quickly responded, via his own Twitter account.What do all the details of this complicated story have to do with Trump? As the Inquisitr reported in May, an analysis by law professor Paul Campos says that evidence indicates that it was not Broidy who had the affair with Bechard, resulting in her pregnancy, but Trump himself.
Broidy simply took the fall to cover for Trump, falsely confessing to getting the Playboy Playmate pregnant and arranging her abortion, according to Campos. And in his new New York article published this week, Campos says that Brody's sudden refusal to pay off the remaining portion of the $1.6 million he owes her "doesn't add up — unless he's covering for Trump."
If indeed Davidson did improperly communicate with Avenatti, Broidy's "remedy" would be to sue Davidson, not renege on his deal with Bechard, Campos says. Broidy's lawyer, however, told Campos that "this agreement was not on anyone else's behalf."
Whether Bechard's lawsuit indicates that her affair was with Trump or Broidy will not be known until the suit becomes unsealed. Avenatti called the Stris request to see the suit, and the judge's acquiescence, "highly unusual under California law," Raw Story reported.
Indeed, sealing a lawsuit would be unusual in any state because, as the Washington Post reported, the Supreme Court has ruled that the public has a right to know what goes on in court cases, and later decisions have only made that right more clear.
"A party seeking to seal court records thus carries a heavy burden of justification in order to overcome the public's right of access," the Post report said.
The judge gave Bechard and Stris 20 days to give their reasons why the lawsuit should remain sealed, CNN reports.