Michael Avenatti Sentenced to 30 Months in Nike Extortion Case

Disgraced lawyer Michael Avenatti was sentenced on Thursday to 30 months in prison for his attempt to extort Nike for over $20 million.

Avenatti first rose to fame after representing adult film star Stormy Daniels in lawsuits against former President Donald Trump in 2018. He was convicted in February for trying to extort millions of dollars from the major athletic brand.

Breaking: Michael Avenatti sentenced to 30 months in prison for trying to extort Nike.

The judge said Avenatti "became drunk on the power of his platform" and "betrayed" his clients.

— Jan Wolfe (@JanNWolfe) July 8, 2021

"Mr. Avenatti had become drunk on the power of his platform or what he perceived the power of his platform to be," Judge Paul Gardephe said at the sentencing in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. "He had become someone who operated as if the laws and rules which apply to everyone else didn't apply to him."

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

In March 2019, Avenatti and a Los Angeles lawyer, Mark Geragos, met with two of Nike's outside lawyers in New York, according to The Wall Street Journal.

According to evidence presented at the trial, at this meeting Avenatti claimed his client Gary Franklin found evidence that Nike employees were funneling money secretly to top high school basketball players and their families.

Avenatti threatened to expose the payments at a news conference the next day unless Nike paid his client a $1.5 million settlement. Franklin, a youth basketball coach in Los Angeles, said at the trial that he was completely unaware of Avenatti's proposed quid-pro-quo arrangement.

After the meeting, Nike's lawyers contacted the Manhattan U.S. attorney's office. In the days that followed, according to evidence presented at the trial, Nike's lawyers recorded Avenatti's conversations, as directed by law enforcement.

Avenatti continued to make threats and push Nike's lawyers into agreements. Avenatti warned that if he leaked the information, the claims could "take 10 billion dollars off your client's" stock market value, according to The Wall Street Journal.

"I'm not f***ing around with this, and I'm not continuing to play games," Avenatti was recorded as saying just before his arrest on March 25, 2019.

Avenatti has been held in a Manhattan federal prison since 2019. According to CNBC, Gardephe cited the harsh conditions he was kept in as a reason for his lighter sentence.

"He hijacked his client's claims, and he used him to further his own agenda, which was to extort Nike millions of dollars for himself," Gardephe said. "Mr. Avenatti has expressed what I believe to be severe remorse today."

The remorse shown was a tearful statement to the judge before Avenatti's sentencing. He said, "I am truly sorry for all of the pain I caused to Mr. Franklin and others. I alone have destroyed my career, my relationships and my life. And there is no doubt I need to pay."

In addition to his two and a half year sentence, Avenatti faces two other federal criminal trials on charges in California, where prosecutors say he defrauded clients—including an ill paraplegic person—out of millions of dollars. The trial is set to begin next week in Santa Ana.

Also, a trial in Manhattan is scheduled to begin next year. Avenatti will be tried on charges of embezzling former client Stormy Daniels (whose real name is Stephanie Clifford) out of $300,000 that came from a book she wrote.

Newsweek reached out to Nike for comment, who provided the following statement: "The verdict and sentence speak for themselves."

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Michael Avenatti was sentenced on Thursday to 30 months in prison for his attempt to extort Nike for millions of dollars. Above, Avenatti on September 10, 2019, in Los Angeles. PG/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images