Michael Avenatti was sentenced to jail for 30 months plus three years of supervised release for threatening to extort money from Nike. The high-profile lawyer used his manufactured celebrity in an attempt to extort the sports company, defrauding his basketball coach client and destroying his own career and his life in the process, prosecutors said.
Finally facing a federal judge after the sentencing was postponed seven times due to COVID restrictions, Avenatti apologised in a sobbing voice. He said he was truly sorry for the pain he caused, and that he had betrayed his own values, his profession, and his family. He said he wanted his children to be ashamed of him.
Avenatti got carried away by the power of his manufactured celebrity and notoriety, gained after representing Stormy Daniels in a series of attacks on Donald Trump. He was lauded and promoted by cable news and talk show hosts, but his fame and celebrity went to his head and he overplayed his hand.
Previously, when representing Stormy Daniels, it was obvious Avenatti stretched the truth for his own ends, but cable news outlets, such as CNN and MSNBC ignored his obvious lies and kept him on their shows to rub salt into Donald Trump’s eyes.
U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe in New York dealt a crushing blow to Avenatti at the sentencing hearing, ordering him to serve 30 months plus three years of supervised release. Avenatti told the court, “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.”
Extortion and Fraud
Drunk on his superpower gained from grandstanding before media every day after using Stormy Daniels to damage Donald Trump, Avenatti gained a new client and then turned to extortion. He gained information from his basketball client about Nike employees making illicit payments to top high school athletes. He then used that information to try to extort up to $25 million from Nike, offering to remain silent about the alleged corruption around college athletics and the apparel company.
As with most people who are caught out, Avenatti was contrite at sentencing, as he attempted to seek clemency from the court.
Avenatti clearly didn’t think about what he was doing to his family, reputation or others while he was using his clients’ information to further his own ends. What he previously did to fraudulently damage the President of the United States was obvious to anyone paying attention. But that did not stop cable news and mainstream media companies, Democratic Party politicians and the eager Trump-haters, who lapped it up and gave him a bigger platform. That set him up for a major fall.
MSNBC, for example had him on their shows close to 100 times. Their coverage of his downfall lasted less than two minutes.
In the Nike affair, prosecutors said what Avenatti did was criminal, defrauding his client, hijacking his claims and using his own celebrity status, the media platform that gave him, and his client’s information to threaten Nike. It was not much different to the way he hijacked the Stormy Daniels story.
Unfortunately for Michael Avenatti, his threatening and verbally abusive call to Nike was recorded. In that expletive-laden call, he was caught threatening to ruin Nike’s reputation and sink their stock price, in an attempt to extort million of dollars from them that could be covered up with a fake “internal investigation.”
The cable news and mainstream media organizations, that should have been seen through his stories from the start, were complicit in Avenatti’s attacks on Trump, but they will pay no legal penalty for that. The media and politicians have also damaged their reputations, but very few will admit it, because Avenatti was raining down blows on their nemesis, Donald Trump.
“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. Avenatti will now serve substantial time in prison for his criminal conduct.”
DOJ Press Release
A DOJ press release noted: “AVENATTI used threats of economic and reputational harm to seek to extort NIKE, Inc. (“Nike”), while defrauding his client (“Client-1″), by promising to settle potential claims by Client-1 against Nike if Nike agreed to make extortionate payments to AVENATTI.”
This was a repeat performance for Avenatti, having already been behind bars and being released on $1million surety.
Avenatti’s lawyers laughably requested the judge sentence him to only six months.
Sentencing guidelines previously suggested a term of 11 to 14 years, but prosecutors asked for eight, a “substantial” sentence, saying “this was an egregious abuse of trust, and it warrants real and serious punishment.”
The judge was not swayed by the pleadings of Avenatti or his lawyers, ordering him to serve 2.5 years plus three years of supervised release.
The Court deferred a restitution determination for a later date.
The FBI and Special Agents of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York worked on the case handled by the Public Corruption Unit.
More To Come
The legal system is not done with Michael Avenatti. As well as the restitution determination, federal fraud charges hang over him in Los Angeles, for which he has already plead not guilty. There is also a case slated for 2022 over alleged fraud against Stormy Daniels who says he owes her money for a book deal.