Why Avenatti Will Not Take the Stand in the Nike Extortion Trial

Michael Avenatti will not take the stand in his Nike extortion trial, he said in court on Monday.

The celebrity lawyer opted not to testify in the case, which is being tried in New York Southern District court, after U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe ruled Monday that “prior incidences of lies and deceit [are] highly relevant” to the proceedings.

Avenatti is accused of attempting to extort more than $20 million from the Swoosh in exchange for not publicizing its alleged illicit payments to student athletes. The attorney, who rose to fame representing adult film star Stormy Daniels in a suit against President Donald Trump, currently faces three counts related to extortion: intent to extort and violation of the Hobbs Act, which criminalizes extortion, as well as honest service wire fraud. He has pled not guilty to all charges.

Avenatti told Gardephe that he would not testify after the judge denied a motion filed Saturday by Avenatti’s legal team. In the motion, defense attorneys asked Gardephe to prevent prosecutors from cross-examining Avenatti about his financial condition, his search history for “insider trading” and other crimes he allegedly committed. Avenatti is currently involved in several other legal matters, including a case in which he accused of embezzling around $300,000 from Daniels after helping her secure a book deal. He also faces charges in Southern California related to claims he embezzled millions from clients, lied to the Internal Revenue Service and conned a bank.

While Gardephe said he would not allow references to the pending criminal cases, he said that “Avenatti offers no basis to preclude financial evidence,” adding that evidence of a “desperate financial condition” is relevant to the extortion case. Avenatti said he would not testify “in light of the court’s prior rulings.”

Closing arguments are scheduled for today, Feb. 11.

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