Michael Avenatti just did it — he tried to extort Nike, a jury ruled Friday. The jury found the bulldog lawyer guilty of betraying his client and attempting to shake down the shoe giant.
The verdict hastens on Avenatti’s downfall, but he has not yet hit rock bottom. He faces two more trials, one in Manhattan and another in Los Angeles.
The California lawyer, 48, stared straight ahead and showed no reaction as the verdict was read. He stood at attention as jurors left the courtroom, appearing to steel himself. “Today a unanimous jury found Michael Avenatti guilty of misusing his client’s information in an effort to extort tens of millions of dollars from the athletic apparel company Nike. While the defendant may have tried to hide behind legal terms and a suit and tie, the jury clearly saw the defendant’s scheme for what it was – an old fashioned shakedown,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said.
The trial in Manhattan Federal Court revealed that Avenatti, facing nearly $11 million in debt, tried to take advantage of an elite youth basketball coach’s legal claims against Nike. The coach, Gary Franklin, said Nike execs had ordered him to make secret cash payments to the families of prominent players — a violation of NCAA rules and potentially a federal crime.
Franklin hired Avenatti to represent him — and then the lawyer went rogue. Franklin testified he wanted to get paid, clean up the corruption at Nike and then reestablish a relationship with the company that had sponsored his well-known youth basketball team, the California Supreme.
Avenatti became a near-constant presence on 24-hour TV news by representing Daniels in legal battles with President Trump and his former fixer, Michael Cohen. He even toyed with running for president. But last year his reputation was destroyed. In addition to the Nike charges, Manhattan federal prosecutors accused him of swindling Daniels out of nearly $300,000 for a book deal. He’s charged in Los Angeles with screwing over clients, lying in bankruptcy proceedings, failure to pay taxes and other financial crimes.
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Written By: Tommy Lightfoot Garrett
Photographs are Courtesy: AP
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