Michael Avenatti pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to charges related to an alleged attempt to extort more than $20 million from Nike.
According to Reuters, the embattled attorney — who rose to fame while representing adult film star Stormy Daniels in lawsuits against President Donald Trump — said in Manhattan federal court that he was “not guilty” of the three counts against him, including extortion and wire fraud.
In March, Avenatti was arrested 15 minutes after he tweeted that he planned to reveal a basketball bribery scandal amid the annual March Madness tournament. Prosecutors charged him with four counts related to accusations that he plotted to siphon millions of dollars from the Swoosh by threatening to disclose evidence of misconduct on the part of Nike executives, ahead of the company’s third-quarter report. He alleged that Nike made illicit payments to elite student athletes, among them No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick Zion Williamson.
An amended indictment filed in mid-November removed two conspiracy counts but added a charge for honest services wire fraud, accusing Avenatti of lying to one of his clients as part of the purported extortion attempt.
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A trial is slated for Jan. 21 in New York. On Monday, Avenatti tweeted that he was “confident that I will be fully exonerated.” In a statement to FN, Avenatti added, “This is a completely bogus case that should have never been filed.”
The celebrity lawyer has also made other legal headlines in recent months. He has been accused of stealing roughly $300,000 from Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, after helping her secure a book deal. Avenatti has pleaded not guilty and a trial is set for April 21.
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