Michael Avenatti has been found guilty on all charges related to an alleged plot to siphon more than $20 million from Nike Inc.
The celebrity lawyer, who rose to fame representing adult film star Stormy Daniels in a suit against President Donald Trump, faced three counts related to what prosecutors said was on extortion attempt: intent to extort; violation of the Hobbs Act, which criminalizes extortion; and honest service wire fraud. The celebrity lawyer had pleaded not guilty to all charges.
With his conviction, Avenatti could face more than 40 years in prison and is expected to be disbarred.
“The verdict speaks volumes,” Nike said in a statement today. “We thank the jurors for their time and service which is the bedrock of the American judicial system.”
In March 2019, Avenatti was arrested 15 minutes after he tweeted that he planned to reveal a basketball bribery scandal amid the annual March Madness tournament. Prosecutors initially 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.
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An amended indictment filed in mid-November removed two conspiracy counts but added the charge for honest services wire fraud, accusing Avenatti of lying to one of his clients as part of the extortion attempt.
Avenatti had been expected to take the stand but this week opted not to testify in the case, which was 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.
In a motion filed Saturday, defense attorneys had 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. Prosecutors had previously claimed Avenatti was more than $15 million in debt when he allegedly attempted to extort Nike. The famed attorney 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.