Michael Avenatti was found guilty of trying to extort sportswear company Nike.
Avenatti is a lawyer who previously represented pornstar Stormy Daniels in a lawsuit against President Trump,
“A Manhattan federal jury on Friday found Avenatti guilty on three counts: extortion, wire fraud and transmission of interstate communications with intent to extort,” Fox News reported.
“He faces up to 42 years in prison,” the report added.
Avenatti is 48 years old and chose not to testify in his defense. He pleaded not guilty to charges alleging that he tried to extort up to $25 million from Nike.
Avenatti was found guilty of threatening to expose corruption at the company Nike unless he was allowed to conduct an investigation. Prosecutors argued he had more than $11 million in debts at the time.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement, “Today a unanimous jury found Michael Avenatti guilty of misusing his client’s information in an effort to extort tens of millions of dollars from the athletic apparel company Nike.”
“While the defendant may have tried to hide behind legal terms and a suit and tie, the jury clearly saw the defendant’s scheme for what it was – an old fashioned shakedown,” he added.
Avenatti gained prominence by making frequent cable television appearances in 2018 and 2019 as journalists courted him for information about Daniels, who sued Trump to void a nondisclosure agreement in which she was paid $130,000 by Trump’s then-attorney Michael Cohen to keep quiet about an alleged sexual encounter with the future president in 2006. Trump has denied any such encounter took place.
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At the peak of his notoriety, Avenatti even considered running for president.
However, his fall from grace came when he was arrested last year as he was about to meet Nike lawyers to press his demands for millions to conduct an internal probe of the Beaverton, Ore.-based shoemaker.
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Avenatti maintained he was taking the aggressive position at the urging of his client, Gary Franklin, who ran a youth basketball league in Los Angeles and was angry that Nike ended a decade-long sponsorship that provided $72,000 annually and free gear. The lawyer sought $1.5 million for Franklin, as well.
Franklin testified that two Nike executives forced him to pay money to the mother of an elite high school basketball player’s mother and to pass along payments to the handlers of other players while doctoring paperwork to hide the purpose of the funds.
In court Friday, Avenatti was seen in court blessing himself before the verdict was read. He looked straight ahead with a sad expression. After the jury read the verdict, his lawyer put his hand on Avenatti’s shoulder.
Sentencing is set for June 17.