Attorney Michael Avenatti was found guilty on all counts in his Nike extortion trial on Friday and faces a sentence of up to 42 years in prison.
Avenatti’s defense attorney told reporters he will appeal on the basis of jury instructions. He added that Avenatti was “very disappointed” with the verdict.
The jury returned a guilty verdict on two attempted extortion counts and an honest services wire fraud charge after a three-week trial. Avenatti was charged last March for trying to extort the sportswear giant by threatening to release damaging information related to Nike’s interaction with amateur athletes if they didn’t pay him up to $25 million dollars.
Avenatti was charged minutes after announcing on Twitter that he would be holding a press conference to “disclose a major high school/college basketball scandal” that “reaches the highest levels of Nike and involves some of the biggest names in college basketball.”
Tmrw at 11 am ET, we will be holding a press conference to disclose a major high school/college basketball scandal perpetrated by @Nike that we have uncovered. This criminal conduct reaches the highest levels of Nike and involves some of the biggest names in college basketball.— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) March 25, 2019
While Avenatti’s attorney Howard Srebnick argued that the California lawyer — who rose to prominence by representing porn star Stormy Daniels in her effort to nullify a non-disclosure agreement with President Trump — was simply on a mission for his client, Gary Franklin, who was angry after Nike ended its decade-long sponsorship that provided tens of thousands annually in financial backing and free gear for Franklin’s youth basketball program.
“In the words of Nike itself, he went in there to ‘Just Do It,’ for his client,” Srebnick said.
But the prosecution repeatedly played audio from Avenatti’s meeting with Nike’s lawyers in which he threatened to sink Nike’s stock value by $5 billion or $6 billion if his demands were not met.
“Nike was supposed to agree that day, the same day, to hire Avenatti, to give him what he wanted. No time to discuss. No explanation for what the legal claims might have been. No discussions allowed,” they said of Avenatti’s demands. “Pay or I go to the press.”
“This is what extortion sounds like,” the prosecutor added. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan also said that Avenatti used the youth basketball coach that he was representing as a “meal ticket” to help deal with over $11 million in personal debt.
Avenatti also decided not to testify in his own defense, after Judge Paul Gardephe ruled that he could be cross-examined about his “desperate financial condition.”
The disgraced attorney still faces two other criminal cases, and was arrested by IRS agents at a California courthouse last month for allegedly violating the terms of pre-trial release.
Avenatti has been accused of embezzling millions of dollars from clients, including hiding a $4 million settlement from a mentally ill paraplegic he defended, and also stealing the identity of Daniels to receive her $300,000 book advance.