- The Washington Times - Friday, February 14, 2020

Lawyer Michael Avenatti was convicted Friday on all three charges related to his efforts to extort up to $25 million from athletic apparel manufacturer Nike.

A federal jury in New York reached the verdict after nearly three days of deliberation.

Avenatti, best known for representing adult-film star Stormy Daniels in lawsuits against Mr. Trump, was convicted of transmission of interstate communications with intent to extort, attempted extortion, and honest-services wire fraud. He could get up to 42 years in prison.

Prosecutors said the California attorney and longtime nemesis of President Trump tried to shake down Nike by demanding money to stay silent about a purported illegal branding deal scheme.

Nike has insisted there was no such deal and reported Avenatti to the FBI.



During the roughly three-week trial, Nike lawyers testified Avenatti threatened to hold a press conference accusing the company of illegally paying high school players. In exchange for keeping quiet, Avenatti told the lawyers they would have to pay him and another attorney $12 million and guarantee between $15 million and $25 million in payments for an internal investigation, they said.

Avenatti also wanted $1.5 million paid to Gary Franklin, a youth basketball coach who claims Nike executives forced him to make illegal payments to top high school basketball players and their families.

The meetings with Avenatti “evolved into really a shakedown,” Benjamin Homes, an attorney for Nike’s outside law firm, told the court.

Prosecutors said the attorney had racked up a slew of liabilities, portraying the scheme as a desperate attempt to cap rising debts.

Avenatti owed money to everyone from former clients and law partners to two ex-wives for child support and alimony, prosecutors said during the trial. He was also in arrears on a race car, a Porsche and a Ferrari.

Defense counsel had strongly denied that money was a factor in the case, saying Avenatti’s price tag for helming an internal probe was a bargain, saying such probes cost more than $100 million.

They also accused Mr. Franklin and his friend Jeffrey Auerback of changing their story for prosecutors.

Defense attorney Howard Srebnick said during closing arguments, Avenatti and Mr. Franklin were on a mission to “root out corruption at Nike” and the only way to do that was through an internal investigation.

“He was on a mission for his client. He was on a mission to achieve the goals of his client, and again he would be paid along the way,” Mr. Srebnick said during closing arguments.

The Nike trial was one of three trials Avenatti faced over the next five months. He is also accused of defrauding former clients, including Ms. Daniels, out of millions of dollars.

Avenatti has maintained his innocence in all three cases.

The lawyer first grabbed headlines when he represented Ms. Daniels in her lawsuit against Mr. Trump. She claims she had an affair with the president years before he was a candidate for office.

Mr. Trump has denied the claims, and he and Avenatti have frequently attacked each other on Twitter.

This story is based in part on wire service reports.

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