Federal guidelines recommended a prison sentence of between nine and 11 years, while Avenatti argued for a six-month prison term followed by one year of home detention. The judge ultimately sentenced the disgraced celebrity lawyer to just two-and-a-half years in prison followed by three years of supervised release.
Prior to sentencing, Avenatti — who rose to fame after representing high-profile clients like Stormy Daniels and some of R. Kelly’s alleged sexual assault victims — apologized for his actions.
“Every father wants his children to be proud of him. But I want mine to be ashamed. If they are ashamed, it means their moral compass is exactly where it should be,” Avenatti said. “All the fame, notoriety and money in the world is meaningless. TV and Twitter, your honor, mean nothing. Everyone wants to ride in a limo with you, but very few are willing to sit next to you on the bus. Even fewer are willing to take your calls from prison.”
“I and I alone have destroyed my career, my relationships, my life,” he added, fighting back tears. “There is no doubt that I deserve to pay, have paid and will pay a further price for what I have done.”
“Mr. Avenatti’s conduct was outrageous,” said U.S. District Court Judge Paul Gardephe said during sentencing, NBC reported. “He hijacked his client’s claims, and he used him to further his own agenda, which was to extort Nike millions of dollars for himself. He outright betrayed his client. Mr. Avenatti had become drunk on the power of his platform, or what he perceived the power of his platform to be.” However, the judge – in handing down the light sentence – noted that Avenatti had shown “severe remorse,” while also criticizing federal prosecutors for not pursuing charges against Avenatti’s alleged co-conspirator in the Nike extortion plot.
Avenatti’s lawyer Danya Perry also noted to the court, “It’s impossible to discern a distinction between Mr. Avenatti’s conduct… and that of Mark Geragos, who they did not charge at all.”
The celebrity lawyer was previously found guilty on federal charges of transmission of interstate communications with intent to extort, attempted extortion, and honest services wire fraud. In March 2019, Avenatti was arrested for his attempt 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.
Prior to his conviction, in January 2020, Avenatti was also rearrested in California for committing additional crimes while out on bail. He also faced accusations that he stole millions from a paraplegic client in California, embezzled from a divorce settlement set aside by then-Miami Heat player Hassan Whiteside and financial crimes related to his representation of Stormy Daniels. Charged with tax crimes and financial fraud, Avenatti will face one trial in California beginning next week. A second case in which he was accused of stealing $300,000 from a book written by Daniels will go to trial in early 2022.