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Avenatti Gets 2 1/2 Years For Extortion, Still Facing Slew Of Other Charges

New York, NY – A federal judge in New York sentenced notorious former celebrity attorney Michael Avenatti to two-and-a-half years in prison for trying to extort millions of dollars from Nike.

Avenatti was convicted of extortion, transmission of interstate communications with intent to extort, and wire fraud in February of 2020 after a three-week trial, NBC News reported.

He was arrested in March of 2019 after he used information from a client to threaten to destroy Nike’s reputation and hurt its stock price unless the company paid him to keep allegations of misconduct involving high school basketball players under wraps.

According to court documents, Avenatti met with Nike’s attorney on March 19, 2019 and “threatened to release damaging information regarding Nike if Nike did not agree to make multi-million dollar payments” to himself and others.

Avenatti claimed he had evidence that Nike employees “had authorized and funded payments to the families of top high school basketball players and/or their families and attempted to conceal the payments,” according to the criminal complaint.

The following day, he followed his threat up with a phone call to the company’s attorneys, and told Nike that if his demands were not met, he would “go take ten billion dollars off your client’s market cap,” court documents read.

Prosecutors said he was recorded hurling obscenities as he threatened Nike executives, NBC News reported.

“I’m not f–king around with this, and I’m not continuing to play games,” Avenatti told Nike representatives, according to court documents.

“You guys know enough now to know you’ve got a serious problem,” the attorney warned. “And it’s worth more in exposure to me to just blow the lid on this thing. A few million dollars doesn’t move the needle for me.”

Prosecutors said Avenatti demanded that Nike pay him and his co-conspirator $15 million to $25 million to conduct an “internal investigation” for the company, according to NBC News.

He also wanted Nike to pay his client $1.5 million in compensation for his contract they had cancelled.

But Nike didn’t cave to Avenatti’s demands, and instead contacted the authorities.

An hour before the charges against the celebrity attorney were announced, he announced plans for a press conference to “disclose a major high school/college basketball scandal perpetrated by @Nike that we have uncovered.”

“This criminal conduct reaches the highest levels of Nike and involves some of the biggest names in college basketball,” Avenatti tweeted.

Avenatti’s attorneys had asked that he receive only six months behind bars because he didn’t commit a violent crime or defraud anyone of money, NBC News reported.

“He cannot go anywhere in public without inducing and subjecting himself to vitriolic comments and abuse,” his attorneys told the judge.

But prosecutors wanted to see the attorney who represented Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against former President Donald Trump get the maximum and recommended eight years, NBC News reported.

“Michael Avenatti used illegal and extortionate threats and betrayed one of his clients for the purpose of seeking to obtain millions of dollars for himself,” U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said. “Not only did Avenatti attempt to weaponize his law license and celebrity to seek to extort payments for himself, he also defrauded his own client.”

Prosecutors said Avenatti’s crime was an “egregious abuse of trust, and it warrants real and serious punishment,” NBC News reported.

U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe called Avenatti’s behavior “outrageous” but noted that he had no criminal history before sentencing him to two-and-a-half years in prison followed by three years of supervised release.

Avenatti cried before he was sentenced and told the judge through tears that he was truly sorry, NBC News reported.

“I will never have the privilege of practicing law again. I am deeply humbled before you today. I have destroyed my career, my relationships and my life,” he told the court through tears.

“Every father wants their children to be proud of them. I want mine to be ashamed. Because if they are ashamed, it means their moral compass is exactly where it should be,” the disgraced former attorney said.

He claimed he had let the allure of being a celebrity get the better of him, NBC News reported.

“When I was a child, I dreamed about becoming a lawyer, doing good and pursuing justice and fighting for the little guy. I did just that, and then I lost my way,” Avenatti said. “Why did this need to happen? All the fame and notoriety is meaningless. I am truly sorry for all the pain I have caused, and I am deeply humbled before you today.”

Avenatti is still facing 36 counts of fraud and embezzlement in Los Angeles where he was accused of stealing millions of dollars from his clients over a 10-year period.

He’s also charged with stealing at least $300,000 from his porn-star client, Stormy Daniels.

Written by
Sandy Malone

Managing Editor - Twitter/@SandyMalone_ - Prior to joining The Police Tribune, Sandy wrote the Politics.Net column for the Wall Street Journal and was managing editor of Campaigns & Elections magazine. More recently, she was an internationally-syndicated columnist for Conde Nast (BRIDES), The Huffington Post, and Monsters and Critics. Sandy is married to a retired police captain and former SWAT commander.

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Written by Sandy Malone

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