Michael Avenatti convicted on all counts in Nike extortion trial

Nellie Chapman
February 14, 2020

Michael Avenatti, who rose to national fame as the brash, camera-ready lawyer for adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, was found guilty Friday on charges that he tried to extort more than $20 million from Nike, Inc.by threatening to expose damaging information about the company.

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 decadelong sponsorship that provided $72,000 annually and free gear.

However, his fall from grace came when he was arrested past year as he was about to meet Nike lawyers to press his demands for millions to conduct an internal probe of the Beaverton, Ore. -based shoemaker.

Nike has insisted there was no such deal and reported Avenatti to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The lawyer was accused of seeking to extort more than $20m (£15m) from Nike.

The Nike trial was one of three trials Avenatti faced over the next five months. "But the thing is, this was the better case for Avenatti to beat". In addition to the Nike charges, Manhattan federal prosecutors accused him of swindling Daniels out of almost $300,000 for a book deal.

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Benjamin Homes, an associate attorney for Nike's outside law firm who took notes during several of the meetings with Avenatti, testified that it "evolved into really a shakedown".

Citing previous testimony and text messages between Auerbach and Franklin, defense attorneys said the two men were after "justice" and hired "Avenatti to be Avenatti" to get it.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan began investigating Nike over the potentially illicit payments in 2017, when Adidas AG was hit with a related scandal.

"That is what extortion sounds like", Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew D. Podolsky said in closing arguments Wednesday. In exchange for keeping quiet, Avenatti told the lawyers they would have to pay him and another attorney $12 million and guarantee between $15 million and $25 million in payments for an internal investigation, they said. "And it was caught on tape".

His lawyer, Scott Srebnick, declined to comment but said he would appeal the conviction.

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