Lawyer Michael Avenatti was convicted in New York on Friday of trying to extort millions of dollars from athletic wear company Nike.
Avenatti, the former attorney for adult actress Stormy Daniels, was found guilty on all three counts. During the three-week trial, prosecutors said that Avenatti had used his media access to threaten Nike, telling the company that unless he was paid $25 million he would announce that it had secretly paid amateur basketball players. By advocating for money for his own use instead of his client, a youth basketball coach named Gary Franklin, Avenatti had also betrayed his client.
According to CNN, Avenatti made the sign of the cross before the verdict was read, and glared at the jurors as it was read aloud. He told his lawyers “great job, guys” before being led back to his cell, where he’s been held since violating the terms of his bail in January. The sentencing is scheduled to take place on June 17, and Avenatti could face up to 42 years in prison.
Avenatti, 48, did not testify at the trial, but his lawyers maintained that he was doing all those things at the direction of his client, Franklin. Franklin retained Avenatti because of Nike’s dealings with amateur athletes. During the trial, Franklin testified that Nike executives had bullied him into helping them pay money to amateur players and their families, then ended a longtime sponsorship with his youth basketball program that provided over $70,000 and free Nike gear. Franklin also testified that all he wanted was for Avenatti to get Nike to renew the sponsorship and to fire two executives.
Avenatti’s legal woes are far from over. In April he has to stand trial on charges that he defrauded Daniels of book proceeds, and in May he’ll stand trial on charges that he defrauded clients of millions of dollars.
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