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Michael Avenatti

Jury Finds Michael Avenatti Guilty on Extortion Charges

Gettyimages | Drew Angerer
By Sharon Oliver

Disgraced celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti was found guilty Friday on three charges of extortion by a jury after 13 hours of deliberation. The high-profile attorney who represented and some of R. Kelly’s alleged sexual victims appeared in a New York Federal Court where he found guilty of attempting extort Nike for $25 million, the transmission of interstate communications with intent to extort and honest services wire fraud.

The verdict was confirmed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan and sentencing is set for June. Avenatti could face a maximum of 20 years in prison.

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Guilty Verdict

Michael Avenatti
Gettyimages | FREDERIC J. BROWN

Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement: “Today a unanimous jury found Michael Avenatti guilty of misusing his client’s information in an effort to extort tens of millions of dollars from the athletic apparel company Nike. While the defendant may have tried to hide behind legal terms and a suit and tie, the jury clearly saw the defendant’s scheme for what it was — an old-fashioned shakedown.”

Avenatti glared at the jurors as the verdict was being read but did not say a word. Afterward, he shook hands with his lawyers and thanked them for a great job. Avenatti attorney Scott Srebnick said they will be appealing the conviction.

Extortion, Arrest and Downfall

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In March 2019, Avenatti was arrested after he and an uncharged conspirator threatened to hold a press conference to ruin Nike’s reputation by threatening to expose the sportswear giant for their alleged role in assisting Nike-affiliated colleges in recruiting high school athletes unless they agreed to pay him and his client $25 millions of dollars, according to court papers. The next day, the FBI caught Avenatti on audio pressuring Nike reps to pay up.

“I’m not f---ing around with this, and I’m not continuing to play games,” Avenatti told Nike reps, according to court papers. “You guys know enough now to know you’ve got a serious problem. And it’s worth more in exposure to me to just blow the lid on this thing. A few million dollars doesn’t move the needle for me.”

More Troubles Ahead

Unsplash | Bonnie Kittle

In January 2020, while awaiting federal trial, Avenatti was arrested again in California for committing more crimes while out on bail. In addition to that, he is awaiting trial for stealing book advance monies from Stormy Daniels’ memoir.

Michael Avenatti is also accused of having embezzled funds from a divorce settlement to buy a share in a private jet. Those funds had been set aside by former Miami Heat player Hassan Whiteside. The famed lawyer was reportedly in $11 million worth of debt during the time of his Nike extortion scheme.

Avenatti, Stormy Daniels and Donald Trump

Michael Avenatti and Stormy Daniels
Gettyimages | Ethan Miller

A former cable news network fixture, Michael Avenatti came into public prominence as porn star Stormy Daniel's attorney.

Although he virtually took a bullhorn in exposing Donald Trump's affair with Daniels, he received mixed reviews from the viewing public. Some thought him to be a dreamy figure of the law, a justice seeker bringing about truth, while others found Avenatti to be nothing but an attention seeker.

In the end, it's a sad outcome for a storied career that could have gone further.

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