Michael Avenatti Found Guilty on Nike Extortion Charges
Michael Avenatti, the disgraced celebrity lawyer who represented Stormy Daniels and some of R. Kelly’s alleged sexual assault victims, was found guilty on all three charges Friday stemming from his Nike extortion trial.
After a 13-hour deliberation, the jury in the New York federal court case found Avenatti guilty on charges of transmission of interstate communications with intent to extort, attempted extortion, and honest services wire fraud, CNN reports.
In March 2019, Avenatti was arrested amid news that the lawyer had attempted to extort Nike for $25 million, threatening to expose the sportswear giant for their alleged role in helping Nike-affiliated colleges secure high school athletes.
Following that arrest, more charges were levied against Avenatti, including accusations that he stole millions from a paraplegic client in California as well as embezzled from a divorce settlement set aside by then-Miami Heat player Hassan Whiteside; in the latter case, Avenatti allegedly used those embezzled funds to buy a share of a private jet. Avenatti was also charged with financial crimes related to his representation of Stormy Daniels.
In January 2020, while awaiting federal trial, Avenatti was rearrested in California for committing additional crimes while out on bail. Avenatti is awaiting trial for both stealing the book advance for Daniels’ memoir and the California fraud case.
In the Nike extortion case, Avenatti was accused of shaking down Nike by using one of his clients — a high school-level basketball coach identified at trial as Gary Franklin — who previously had a contract with Nike and allegedly (and illegally) helped guide college-bound prospects to Nike-affiliated schools.
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Avenatti first attempted to get Nike to give him and his client $1.5 million to delay a press conference he had planned for the eve of March Madness, when he would reveal Nike’s association with his client. Avenatti’s alleged demands included that he and a fellow lawyer oversee an in-house investigation over Nike’s practices, for millions of dollars.
During the trial, Nike lawyer Benjamin Homes, who sat in on Avenatti’s meetings with Nike, called Avenatti’s scheme “a shakedown.” Franklin also testified he didn’t know about Avenatti’s planned press conference to expose Nike if the demands weren’t met. Avenatti was reportedly $11 million in debt at the time of his extortion scheme.
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