Attorney Michael Avenatti was found guilty in all respects of extorting up to $ 25 million from Nike.
The ruling was upheld by the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan, who brought the case.
Avenatti can expect a maximum legal penalty of 42 years. A judge set the sentence for June.
The jury’s decision before the US District Court in Manhattan came on Friday after a three-week lawsuit against the California lawyer, who became famous in lawsuits against President Donald Trump as a representative of porn star Stormy Daniels. The jurors began to advise on Wednesday.
“Today, a unanimous jury found Michael Avenatti guilty of misusing his customer’s information to extort tens of millions of dollars from the Nike sportswear company,” said US attorney Geoffrey Berman in a statement. “While the accused may have tried to hide.” Behind the legal requirements and a suit and a tie, the jury clearly saw the accused’s scheme for what it was – an old-fashioned shakedown. “
Avenatti glared at the jury when the verdict was announced, but said nothing. He then shook hands with his lawyers and said, “Great job.”
One of his lawyers, Scott Srebnick, declined to comment, but said he would appeal the conviction. He later released a statement to NBC News.
“Michael Avenatti has been a fighter all his life. The inhumane conditions of solitary confinement he has experienced in the past month would break anyone, but he remains strong, “said Srebnick.” We are all obviously deeply disappointed with the jury’s verdict. We believe that there are significant legal reasons for the appeal that he wants to pursue. “
Avenatti was arrested in March after he and an undefendant conspirator threatened to hold a press conference to ruin Nike’s reputation and scratch the stock price unless it was agreed to give him and his client millions of dollars numbers.
The next day, the FBI arrested him on a recorded call that fired explosive devices when he pressured Nike employees to pay.
“I’m not busy with that and I’m not playing anymore,” Avenatti told Nike officials, court records said. “You now know enough to know that you have a serious problem. And it’s more worth it for me to just blow the lid on this thing. A few million dollars won’t move the needle for me.”
“This is what extortion sounds like,” said US attorney Matthew Podolsky after playing Avenatti’s repeated claims.
Avenatti is still facing other legal hurdles, including federal government charges in California for defrauding customers and escaping payments to them that he could receive, including theft from a quadriplegic. He is also facing a separate federal lawsuit in New York that is alleged to have kept $ 300,000 from a book publisher that was supposed to be paid to Stormy Daniels.
He became famous almost two years ago when he filed a lawsuit on behalf of Stormy Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, saying that her “silence agreement” with President Trump was invalid because he had never signed it personally. Daniels said she had an extramarital affair with Trump before his candidacy, an affair that the President has vigorously denied.
In the Nike case, Avenatti’s prosecutors demanded that the sportswear giant pay a customer his $ 1.5 million and compensate him and his co-conspirator for $ 15 to 25 million for an “internal investigation” for the company.
The lawyer allegedly had over $ 11 million in debt at the time of his extortion.
He had met with Nike representatives on March 19, who claimed to represent a youth basketball coach who had information that Nike employees had made illegal payments to the families of university athletes, and threatened to hold a press conference to help the company to unmask unless it agreed to pay him and his client millions of dollars according to court records.
Avenatti had not pleaded guilty. His lawyers said he was only pursuing honest negotiations with the company on behalf of a client, Gary Franklin, an amateur basketball coach who wanted Nike to clean up his act.
During the final argument, one of his lawyers, Howard Srebnick, asked the jury to ignore the four-letter words from the Californian lawyer. “That’s exactly what the customers wanted. He acted in good faith, “said Srebnick.” Not guilty. “
“In the words of Nike himself, he went in there to do” Just Do It “for his client,” he added with flourishes.
But the prosecutor went into Avenatti’s debt and said he was looking for his bottom line, not his client. “Michael Avenatti, who faced a mountain of debt, saw light at the end of the tunnel,” said Podolsky. “He saw a meal card: Gary Franklin.”
Avenatti’s former head of the law firm said the money was so scarce there that some employees were forced to leave their offices and work from home.
He owed the IRS $ 850,438 in unpaid taxes, interest, and penalties, the prosecutor said.
Avenatti has also pleaded not guilty of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from Daniel’s book proceeds.
Daniels was owed money from a bookstore, and Avenatti reportedly used a “fraudulent document that is said to have his client’s name and signature to convince his client’s literary agent to transfer the money owed to Avenatti’s clients to one of Avenatti’s.” redirect controlled account, “said a statement by federal prosecutors.
Prosecutors who said he put almost $ 300,000 in the program accused him of wasting the money to pay back his Ferrari.
“No money related to Ms. Daniels was ever misused or abused. She received millions of dollars in legal services and we spent huge sums on expenses. She just paid $ 100 for everything she received. I look forward to it a jury that hears evidence, “Avenatti replied when he was indicted in May.
Both the Daniels case in New York and the federal fraud case in Los Angeles are due to be brought to justice this spring.