Michael Avenatti found guilty on all counts in Nike extortion case, faces 42 years in prison

1010 WINS Newsroom
February 14, 2020 - 2:28 pm
Michael Avenatti in New York

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

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NEW YORK (1010 WINS) – A jury ruled attorney Michael Avenatti guilty on all accounts in the Nike extortion trial on Friday.

Avenatti, who became a household name after representing porn star Stormy Daniels in her lawsuits against President Donald Trump, was convicted in Manhattan Federal Court.

He was found guilty of all the charges—transmission of interstate communications with intent to extort, attempted extortion and wire fraud. The charges carry a combined potential penalty of 42 years in prison.

Avenatti had pleaded not guilty to charges alleging that he tried to extort up to $25 million from Nike by threatening to publicly expose corruption at Nike unless he was allowed to conduct an internal probe of the company.

Prosecutors say he had more than $11 million in debts at the time.

Avenatti’s lawyers have argued that he was doing an honest and legal negotiation with the shoemaker on behalf of an amateur basketball coach who wanted Nike to clean up its act.

Avenatti, 48, became prominent during frequent cable television program appearances in 2018 and 2019 as journalists courted him for information about porn star Stormy Daniels and her claims of a Trump tryst before he became president and a payoff to remain silent about it. At his peak of notoriety, Avenatti even considered running for president himself. Donald Trump Jr. mocked Avenatti's potential 2020 bid on Twitter Friday.

But a steep fall from power-broker status was swift when Avenatti was arrested as he was about to meet Nike lawyers last March to press his demands for millions of dollars to conduct an internal probe of the Beaverton, Oregon-based shoemaker.

Avenatti maintained he was taking the aggressive position at the urging of his client, Gary Franklin, who ran a youth basketball league in Los Angeles and was angry that Nike ended a decade-long sponsorship that provided $72,000 annually and free gear. He sought $1.5 million for Franklin, as well.

Franklin testified that two Nike executives forced him to pay money to the mother of an elite high school basketball player's mother and to pass along payments to the handlers of other players while doctoring paperwork to hide the purpose of the funds.

Avenatti did not testify, but his lawyers said he was following the wishes of Franklin and an entertainment executive who advised him to be aggressive to force Nike to fire corrupt executives and fix its culture.

Besides the extortion trial, Avenatti also faces an April trial in New York on charges that he defrauded Daniels of book proceeds and a May trial in Los Angeles on charges that he defrauded clients and others of millions of dollars.

He remains held without bail. Federal prosecutors in Los Angeles succeeded last month in getting him locked up after saying he violated his $300,000 bail by moving money around illegally after his arrest.