Back in March 2019, Michael Avenatti (a lawyer known for, amongst either things, representing Stormy Daniels in a lawsuit against then-president Donald Trump, and representing NFL fans in lawsuits over Super Bowl XLV seating and a cancelled 2016 Hall of Fame Game, the first eventually settled, the second still pending) was arrested and charged with extortion and wire fraud “on charges that included trying to shake down Nike for as much as $25 million by threatening the company with bad publicity.” Minutes ahead of that arrest, Avenatti claimed on Twitter that he was going to “disclose a major high school/college basketball scandal perpetrated by @Nike that we have uncovered.” But that didn’t happen, and Avenatti (seen above in April 2019) was instead convicted of attempted extortion and honest services fraud (for not properly representing his client in this case, Los Angeles youth basketball organizer Gary Franklin Jr.) last year. And now, Avenatti has been sentenced to two and a half years in jail, as Larry Neumeister of The Associated Press writes:
Michael Avenatti, the brash California lawyer who once represented Stormy Daniels in lawsuits against President Donald Trump, was sentenced Thursday to 2 1/2 years in prison for trying to extort up to $25 million from Nike by threatening the company with bad publicity.
…U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe called Avenatti’s conduct “outrageous,” saying he “hijacked his client’s claims, and he used those claims to further his own agenda, which was to extort millions of dollars from Nike for himself.”
Avenatti, the judge added, “had become drunk on the power of his platform, or what he perceived the power of his platform to be. He had become someone who operated as if the laws and the rules that applied to everyone else didn’t apply to him.”
…[Nike] lawyers said Avenatti threatened to do billions of dollars of damage to Nike and then falsely tweeted that criminal conduct at Nike reached the “highest levels.”
So, yeah, this didn’t work out great for Avenatti. It’s maybe somewhat understandable why he thought he might be able to get Nike to pay him off, given the drama about the college basketball scandal with adidas, but he appears to have strongly overplayed his hand in this case. And the kinds of allegations he was tossing around definitely require some supporting evidence. At any rate, the sentence here wraps up one of the weirder recent legal sagas in sports.
[The Associated Press; photo from USA Today]