Michael Avenatti Found Guilty in Nike Extortion Trial

Publish date:

Lawyer Michael Avenatti was convicted Friday by a Manhattan federal jury on all three charges related to his efforts to extort millions of dollars from Nike. 

The verdict was returned after the jury deliberated charges of attempted extortion and honest services fraud in what prosecutors say was an attempt by Avenatti to extort up to $25 million from Nike with threats to otherwise harm it. The charges carry a combined potential penalty of 42 years in prison.

Avenatti was accused of threatening to hold a news conference and claim Nike executives were paying elite recruits and their families, unless he was paid to conduct an internal probe. He intended to create an "internal investigation" so Nike could "self-report" misconduct in college basketball's corruption scandal.

Prosecutors said Avenatti faced over $10 million in debts at the time of his attempted shake down of Nike, according to CNBC.

Avenatti was arrested on federal charges of extortion, wire fraud and bank fraud in March 2019. He tweeted on March 25, 2019 that that he was holding a press conference the following day to "disclose a major high school/college basketball scandal perpetrated by [Nike] that we have uncovered." 

The U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York announced the extortion charges, while the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles charged Avenatti with bank and wire fraud. The charges were announced about an hour after he sent the tweet.

The 48-year-old lawyer became famous for representing porn star Stormy Daniels in lawsuits against President Donald Trump. Avenatti faces two upcoming trials this spring in federal criminal cases. 

A pending case in New York is for charges that he swindled Daniels out of $300,000 in profits for her book. The second case, in California, is on charges that Avenatti defrauded clients and others of millions of dollars.

Avenatti 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.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.