Attorney Michael Avenatti was convicted on all three counts related to his efforts to extort millions of dollars from Nike.
The verdict, rendered in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, came on Friday afternoon, according to news reports. He is perhaps best known for representing adult film performer Stormy Daniels in her claims against President Donald Trump. Avenatti also heavily criticized the president and, at one point, said he might run for president.
The 48-year-old was accused of attempting to shake down Nike by threatening to go public with allegations that the company had bribed amateur basketball players unless he was paid millions of dollars to keep quiet.
When the guilty verdict was read aloud, Avenatti stared straight ahead and showed no reaction, reported the New York Daily News.
The verdict was confirmed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, which had brought the case against him.
He faces other criminal charges in the Southern District of New York for allegedly stealing the book advance on a memoir from Daniels.
Prosecutors had found that Avenatti attempted to take advantage of a youth basketball coach, Gary Franklin, who had made legal claims against Nike. He alleged Nike ordered him to make secret cash payments to the families of elite amateur players, which violates NCAA rules.
Franklin hired Avenatti to represent him before the high-profile lawyer threatened the apparel and shoe company. Avenatti pleaded not guilty to the charges.
“I’m not [expletive] around with this, and I’m not continuing to play games. And I don’t—you know, this isn’t complicated. You guys know enough now to know you’ve got a serious problem,” Avenatti said in a phone call with Nike officials. “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. I’m just being really frank with you … I’ll go take $10 billion off your client’s market cap.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Podolsky, who played a recording of those remarks in court, said his remarks were tantamount to extortion.
“This is what extortion sounds like,” he said in court, reported NBC News. They also said Avenatti was millions of dollars in debt.
In court, they argued that Avenatti had recently spent millions of dollars on oceanside property in Southern California, a private jet, a Porsche, a Ferrari, and other luxury expenses, according to the New York Post.
One of Avenatti’s attorneys, Howard Srebnick, said he was acting on behalf of his client, not himself. “This was exactly what the clients wanted. He acted in good faith,” Srebnick said. “Not guilty.”
In the aftermath of Trump’s election, Avennati became a fixture on cable news programs as he represented Daniels in her legal battles.
But on March 25, 2019, Avenatti was arrested just hours after he wrote on Twitter that he “will be holding 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.”
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Author: Jack Phillips