A federal appeals court on Wednesday upheld the conviction of disgraced attorney Michael Avenatti for conspiring to extort up to $25 million from Nike, one of several legal snafu that has landed him in prison one.
United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit Rejecting Avenatti’s claim There was insufficient evidence to support his February 2020 conviction for racketeering and honest services fraud for threatening to discredit Nike in the media if he was not paid.
A three-judge panel weighed Avenatti’s appeal, finding the evidence, including bank statements, text messages, emails and witness statements, was sufficient for a “reasonable jury to conclude that he had no right to demand that Nike individual payments, let alone $150-25 million.”
The panel also dismissed Avenatti’s allegations that jurors did not receive proper legal instruction and that the trial judge missed deadlines for him to pay damages to Nike.
Avenatti’s attorney left a message seeking comment.
Avenatti, who shot to fame representing porn actress Stormy Daniels in a lawsuit against former President Donald Trump, was arrested last year for stealing proceeds from Daniels’ book. Convicted and sentenced to 14 years in prison for stealing customers’ settlement funds and failing to pay taxes on the coffee chain he owns.
In the Nike case, Avenatti was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison and ordered to pay $260,000 in damages. Avenatti, 52, is being held at a federal prison near Los Angeles, where he lives and practices law. His bar license has been revoked and he is expected to be released from prison in 2036.
According to prosecutors, Avenatti and another attorney (identified in the appeals court ruling as former Michael Jackson attorney Mark Glagos) went to Nike in March 2019, claiming to have received a lawsuit from a whistleblower client. The Office obtained evidence that the company paid amateur basketball players.
Avenatti is demanding that Nike pay the whistleblower a settlement and hire him and Glagos “to conduct an internal investigation into basketball corruption,” or they will hold a press conference on the eve of the company’s quarterly earnings call to “expose the incident.” scandal,” prosecutors said.
Avenatti told Nike officials they could pay him and Glagos $15 million to $25 million to investigate the allegations, or pay him more than $22 million to keep him quiet, prosecutors said.
Geragos, who has not been charged, later told prosecutors that he believed Avenatti had “crossed a line” with Nike and told Avenatti he was “concerned and disturbed by the situation.”
Avenatti was arrested in New York as he prepared to meet with Nike lawyers to make his demands. That same day, federal prosecutors in California charged him with theft of client property. Prosecutors said Avenatti’s actions may have been driven by large debts, in part due to his lavish lifestyle, which included private jets, sports cars and expensive artwork.
Evidence presented in Avenatti’s blackmail trial showed he owed at least $11 million at the time and was kicked out of the law firm for failing to pay about $50,000 a month in rent.