- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 15, 2020

A federal judge in New York Wednesday rejected Michael Avenatti’s bid to dismiss criminal charges accusing him of trying to extort Nike.

The ruling comes less than 24 hours after Mr. Avenatti, a high-profile lawyer and frequent Trump foe, was arrested by Internal Revenue Service agents Tuesday night in Los Angeles. Authorities in Los Angeles allege he scammed a client more than $840,000 and potential violations of his bail conditions.

Mr. Avenatti was arrested outside a state court in Los Angeles, where the State Bar of California has initiated disciplinary proceedings against him.

In New York, Mr. Avenatti’s legal team sought to have the charges related to Nike tossed, claiming the prosecution was politically motivated. Mr. Avenatti has publicly feuded with President Trump and represented a porn star who alleged an affair with the president.

Mr. Trump has denied the allegations.

But U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe in New York concluded there was no evidence the prosecution was brought at the direction of Mr. Trump. He also noted that Nike alerted authorities about the alleged extortion.

“Avenatti is being prosecuted for activities wholly unrelated to the political arena,” Judge Gardephe wrote.

Prosecutors claim that Mr. Avenatti threatened to expose allegations that Nike made improper payments to families of college basketball recruits unless the sneaker company paid him between $15 million to $25 million to conduct a probe.

Mr. Avenatti’s trial is scheduled for Jan. 21, although his arrest may impact that date.

In California, Mr. Avenatti is facing separate charges including bank fraud, false testimony and lying to the IRS.

He also faces another criminal case in New York where he is accused of stealing nearly $300,000 from Stormy Daniels, the porn star who alleged an affair with Mr. Trump.

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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