Michael Avenatti: Celeb lawyer sentenced to 30 months in jail for extortion

Celebrity attorney Michael Avenatti walks out of a New York court house

Celebrity attorney Michael Avenatti walks out of a New York court house

Disgraced US lawyer Michael Avenatti was sentenced to 30 months in prison for attempting to extort up to $25m (£17.4m) from Nike.

Avenatti, 50, who represented adult film star Stormy Daniels in a lawsuit against President Donald Trump, was found guilty last year.

He shot to fame while representing Ms Daniels, at one point suggesting he might run for president.

On Thursday, a New York judge said Avenatti had become “drunk” on power.

Federal prosecutors alleged Avenatti met a lawyer for Nike in March 2019 and threatened to release damaging information about the company unless it paid him between $15m and $25m.

At the time, Avenatti was representing a client who ran a youth basketball league in Los Angeles. Court papers said Avenatti had threatened to say that Nike had made illicit payments to young players in the city.

The jury heard he had been at least $11m in debt.

Appearing for his sentencing in a Manhattan courtroom on Thursday, Avenatti told Judge Paul Gardephe he had “lost his way”, betraying his values, friends, family and the legal profession.

“There is no doubt that I deserve to pay, have paid, and will pay a further price for what I have done,” he said, fighting back tears.

Prosecutors last month urged a New York judge to impose a “very substantial” prison sentence on Avenatti. They argued he had “betrayed his client’s trust and sought to enrich himself by weaponising his public profile in an attempt to extort a publicly traded company out of tens of millions of dollars”.

Avenatti was found guilty by jury after a three-week trial in February 2020 on all three of the counts he faced: extortion, transmission of interstate communications with intent to extort, and wire fraud.

He now faces another set of legal battles.

Avenatti is due to begin a separate trial next week on a series of charges in California, where prosecutors allege he defrauded clients out of millions of dollars.

Next year, he will be back in Manhattan federal court on charges related to his most famous client, Stormy Daniels. He is accused of stealing $300,00 of Ms Daniels’ advance for her book contract.

He denies all those charges.

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