NEW YORK (AP) — Michael Avenatti, the flamboyant California lawyer who previously represented Stormy Daniels in Trump-Russia cases, was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in jail on Thursday for attempting to extort up to $25 million from Nike by threatening the corporation with negative publicity.

Last year, Avenatti, 50, was found guilty of attempted extortion and honest services fraud in connection with his representation of a Los Angeles minor basketball league organizer who was dissatisfied with Nike’s decision to withdraw the league’s sponsorship.

Avenatti’s behavior was deemed “outrageous” by US District Judge Paul G. Gardephe, who stated that he “hijacked his client’s claims and utilized those claims to pursue his own objective, which was to extort millions of dollars from Nike

The judge went on to say about Avenatti, saying, “had become enamored with the power of his platform, or at least what he saw it to be. He’d evolved into someone who functioned under the assumption that the laws and rules that applied to everyone else did not apply to him. “

Avenatti made passionate remarks, often through tears, before the judge addressed.

“I’ve realized, your honor, that all the fame, notoriety, and money in the world matter nothing. Your honor, television and Twitter are meaningless, “he stated.

He concluded his testimony by stating his expectations of his three children, two of whom addressed letters to the judge.

“Every father desires that his children are proud of him. Mine should be ashamed of itself. Because their moral compass is precisely where it should be if they are ashamed, “he stated


Avenatti’s meteoric rise to popularity was slowed by criminal fraud allegations on both coasts. He also faces a fraud trial in the Los Angeles region next week, a second California criminal trial later this year, and a separate trial in Manhattan next year, where he is accused of defrauding Daniels of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In 2018, Avenatti represented Daniels in lawsuits against Trump, frequently appearing on cable news shows to criticize the Republican president. Avenatti considered running for president in 2020, saying that he would “have no trouble raising money.” Daniels said that a ten-year affair with Trump led to her being paid $130,000 by Trump’s personal lawyer to remain silent in 2016. The affair was denied by Trump.

In March 2019, prosecutors in California and New York accused Avenatti of fraud, putting an end to his political ambitions. Prosecutors in California claimed he was living a $200,000-a-month lifestyle while defrauding clients of millions of dollars and neglecting to pay the IRS hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Weeks later, he was charged with defrauding Daniels of the earnings from a book agreement. All allegations against Avenatti were dismissed when he entered a not guilty plea.


Prosecutors asked for a “quite hefty” penalty, citing an eight-year jail sentence recommended by the US Probation Department. Six months in prison and a year of home detention, according to Avenatti’s lawyers, is sufficient punishment.

On Tuesday, the judge denied Avenatti’s lawyers’ request to have his conviction for attempted extortion and honest services wire fraud in the Nike case overturned. Evidence demonstrated that Avenatti “devised an approach to Nike that was meant to profit himself” rather than addressing his client’s goals, according to the judge.

Prosecutors said Avenatti intended to enrich himself by “weaponizing his public profile” to force Nike to comply with his demands, according to written sentencing arguments.

Nike’s lawyers stated in a victim-impact statement that Avenatti caused the firm significant harm by falsely linking it to a scandal in which bribes were paid to the families of NBA-bound college basketball players to guide them to powerful programs. In that case, an employee of Adidas, a Nike competitor, was found guilty.

According to the lawyers, Avenatti promised to cause billions of dollars in damage to Nike before allegedly tweeting that criminal activity at the company had reached “highest levels.”

Gary Franklin Jr., Avenatti’s former client, said Avenatti’s actions had “devastated me financially, professionally, and emotionally” in a statement presented by prosecutors. Franklin was scheduled to appear in court on Thursday.

Avenatti’s lawyers said in their presentence filing that their client had already suffered enough, noting public humiliation and a difficult stay in jail last year that ended after lawyers determined he was particularly susceptible to the coronavirus.

“The entire world has witnessed Avenatti’s spectacular fall and public humiliation. Because Avenatti’s calamitous fall has been well-documented, the Court may take judicial note of this fact “The lawyers penned the letter.

Despite the fact that prosecutors requested Gardephe to impose a $1 million restitution order to help cover Nike’s legal costs, Avenatti’s lawyers argued that the lack of financial losses justified the leniency.

They wrote, “There was no financial damage to any victims, hence there is no recompense in this instance.” “The fact that a white collar federal criminal prosecution was initiated despite this is a substantial mitigating element in and of itself.”

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