Celebrity Attorney Michael Avenatti Found Guilty in Nike Extortion Case
Michael Avenatti, the California attorney who rose to fame while representing adult film star Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against President Donald Trump, was found guilty Friday on charges of trying to extort $25 million from the Nike shoe company.
Avenatti was arrested last year on charges that alleged he tried to bribe Nike into paying him $25 million while threatening to expose the shoe company for allegedly making illicit payments to top high school basketball players, according to CNN.
Avenatti was representing California high school basketball coach Gary Franklin at the time and prosecutors say the celebrity lawyer was $11 million in debt at the time.
“While the defendant may have tried to hide behind legal terms and a suit and tie, the jury clearly saw the defendant’s scheme for what it was — an old fashioned shakedown,” the U.S. Southern District of New York tweeted out Friday afternoon, confirming that Avenatti was found guilty in the extortion case.
Scott Srebnick, the attorney who represented Avenatti in the case, could not be immediately reached for comment.
According to CNN, Srebnick argued that Avenatti was after justice for Franklin, his client, but prosecutors in the case claimed the lawyer only “saw dollar signs.”
Prosecutors argued that Avenatti “devised a scheme to extort” Nike until the company agreed to pay the lawyer millions in an extortion attempt, according to its initial filing last March.
Avenatti planned to hold a press conference divulging Nike’s alleged payments to the basketball recruits, prosecutors said.
On March 25 last year, the lawyer tweeted that the next day he planned to hold “a press conference to disclose a major high school/college basketball scandal perpetrated by @Nike that we have uncovered.”
Last spring, Nike said in a statement that it would “not be extorted.”
“Nike will not be extorted or hide information that is relevant to a government investigation,” read the statement, obtained by KGW. “Nike has been cooperating with the government’s investigation into NCAA basketball for over a year. When Nike became aware of this matter, Nike immediately reported it to federal prosecutors.
“When Mr. Avenatti attempted to extort Nike over this matter, Nike with the assistance of outside counsel at Boies Schiller Flexner, aided the investigation. Nike firmly believes in ethical and fair play, both in business and sports.”
The former Stormy Daniels attorney is also due in a New York court on April 21 on charges that he stole money from an advance payment in Daniels’ book deal, Reuters reports.
Avenatti is also expected in a California court in May for allegedly attempting to defraud millions of dollars from his clients and lying to the Internal Revenue Service.