A Manhattan federal judge on Thursday sentenced disgraced California lawyer Michael Avenatti to two-and-a-half years in prison over his attempt to extort an estimated $25 million from Nike.
Avenatti, 50, was convicted on charges of trying to extort up to $25 million from the Beaverton, Oregon-based sportswear giant when he represented a Los Angeles youth basketball league organizer upset Nike had ended its league sponsorship.
“Michael Avenatti used illegal and extortionate threats and betrayed one of his clients for the purpose of seeking to obtain millions of dollars for himself,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a Thursday statement. “Not only did Avenatti attempt to weaponize his law license and celebrity to seek to extort payments for himself, he also defrauded his own client.”
The lawyer, who ascended into fame for his public attacks on the former president, threatened the company with bad publicity, going to far as to threaten to hold a press conference ahead of Nike’s quarterly earnings call, according to a press release from Strauss’ office.
“The verdict and sentence speak for themselves,” Nike said in a Thursday statement.
Judge Paul Gardephe described Avenatti’s conduct as “outrageous” during Thursday’s trial, according to Reuters. Several journalists also noted on Twitter that the lawyer was seen crying in court before giving his speech.
Avenatti previously represented Stormy Daniels, born Stephanie Clifford, who sued former President Trump in 2018 over an alleged hush-money deal that paid her $130,000 days before the 2016 election to keep silent about a 2006 sexual tryst she claimed she had with Trump. The president has denied having an affair.
Avenatti is also facing the start of a fraud trial next week in the Los Angeles area, a second California criminal trial later this year and a separate trial next year in Manhattan, where he is charged with cheating Daniels out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
He explored running against Trump in 2020, boasting that he would “have no problem raising money.”