Michael Avenatti sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for Nike extortion scheme
Trump-opponent and celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison on Thursday.
The disgraced attorney was convicted of extortion last year, in a shakedown-plot aimed at Nike.
Avenatti faces several other legal battles in both California and New York for allegedly defrauding clients.
Celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti has been sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for attempting to extort up to $25 million from Nike.
Avenatti, 50, was convicted of threatening to expose allegations that amateur basketball players were engaged in bribery unless Nike agreed to pay him to conduct an internal investigation. A jury found Avenatti guilty of extortion, transmission of of interstate communications with intent to extort, and wire fraud in February 2020.
The disgraced attorney rose to prominence as the celebrity lawyer of Stormy Daniels, the porn star who alleged Donald Trump paid her $130,000 to cover up an alleged affair before he was elected president.
In addition to his 2 1/2 year prison sentence, U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe sentenced Avenatti to an additional three years of supervised release after he gets out.
The sentence is significantly lower than the minimum nine years recommended by federal sentencing guidelines and also fell short of federal prosecutors' request for a "very substantial sentence."
Mr. Avenatti's conduct was outrageous," Gardephe said in U.S. District Court in Manhattan on Thursday. "He outright betrayed his client," Gardephe said.
"Mr. Avenatti had become drunk on the power of his platform, or what he perceived the power of his platform to be."
But ultimately, Gardephe said he gave Avenatti a lighter sentence because the disgraced lawyer "has expressed what I believe to be severe remorse today."
Avenatti cried as he addressed the court, apologizing to the client he exploited in his attempt to extort Nike, as well as his family.
"I alone have destroyed my career, my relationships and my life. And there is no doubt I need to pay," he said.
Avenatti's lawyers had proposed a six-month prison term, arguing that his crimes were nonviolent and did not result in financial loss. Avenatti previously fought to have the guilty verdict overturned but was unsuccessful. The Wall Street Journal reported that Avenatti's lawyers said they would pursue an appeal.
Avenatti, who appeared on numerous talk shows and news programs and often directly called out Trump, faces a slew of additional legal challenges.
Next week, Avenatti heads back to court, this time in California, where prosecutors say he defrauded clients out of millions of dollars, including a mentally ill paraplegic.
After that, Avenatti will return to a Manhattan federal court to face trial on charges related to accusations that he embezzled money from his most famous client, Stormy Daniels.
Avenatti has pleaded not guilty to the charges and denied any criminal wrongdoing.
"I dreamed about becoming a lawyer. About becoming a trial lawyer," Avenatti said in court on Thursday. "About doing good, and about pursuing and achieving justice."
"For years I did just that, but then I lost my way. I betrayed my own values, my friends, my family and myself."
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