Topline: Celebrity attorney Michael Avenatti was convicted by a Manhattan jury Friday of extorting Nike for tens of millions of dollars, the first resolution in a host of federal charges that Avenatti is battling in California and New York.
- Avenatti was accused of extorting up to $25 million from sportswear maker Nike by threatening to expose a high school and college basketball scam perpetrated by the company, according to the Wall Street Journal.
- The WSJ reported Avenatti was convicted on all three counts: “extortion, transmission of interstate communications with intent to extort, and wire fraud.”
- The case against Avenatti emerged after he met with Nike’s outside counsel and told them one of his clients had evidence that the company made secret payments to families of the country’s top high school basketball players, and demanded the money to buy his silence.
- At the time, Nike had already been cooperating with a federal investigation on corruption in high school basketball.
- Avenatti was arrested March 15, 2019, according to NBC News, about 15 minutes after he tweeted that he would hold a news conference revealing the alleged Nike scam.
- “The verdict speaks volumes. We thank the jurors for their time and service, which is the bedrock of the American judicial system,” a Nike spokesperson told Forbes in an email.
Big number: According to Quartz, Avenatti faces over 330 years of prison time for all charges against him, with the maximum sentence in the Nike case being 47 years. Although that sentence will probably be reduced, he will likely be disbarred and no longer able to practice law.
Key background: Avenatti rose to fame in 2018 for representing Stormy Daniels, one of two women to have received hush money payments for their alleged affairs with President Trump, which the president denies. Avenatti was the subject of numerous magazine profiles and photo shoots and made regular television appearances—and was considering a possible 2020 presidential run, going so far as to create a PAC and meet with donors. But, beginning in April 2019, Avenatti was hit with a slew of federal charges in California and New York accusing him of extortion, fraud and embezzlement. Besides the Nike case, Avenatti still faces two additional criminal trials. Daniels has accused Avenatti of stealing $300,000 from her, while another client, who is paraplegic, accused Avenatti of stealing millions from him. Those cases will be heard in two separate trials later this year, according to the WSJ. Avenatti has been in custody since a January 15 arrest for violating his pretrial release terms. The Washington Post reported that Avenatti is scheduled for sentencing in the Nike case on June 17, 2020.