NEW YORK, N.Y. — Michael Avenatti has been sentenced to 2 ½ years in prison for attempting to extort up to $25 million from Nike and defrauding his client.
U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe in New York handed down the 30-month sentence Thursday, nearly a year and a half after Avenatti was found guilty in Feb. 2020.
Avenatti was also sentenced to three years of supervised release and the court deferred a determination as to restitution for a later date.
The 50-year-old attorney rose to fame in the U.S. when began representing adult-film actress Stormy Daniels in her lawsuits filed against former President Donald Trump regarding the pair’s alleged affair.
In the Nike case, prosecutors say Avenatti used threats of economic and reputational harm to try to extort the apparel company, while also defrauding one of his clients by promising to settle potential claims against Nike if the company agreed to make extortionate payments to Avenatti.
Avenatti allegedly threatened to hold a press conference on the eve of Nike’s quarterly earnings call and the start of the annual NCAA basketball tournament at which he would announce allegations of misconduct by employees of Nike.
“However, Avenatti stated that he would refrain from holding the press conference and harming Nike only if Nike made a payment of $1.5 million to Client-1, who was in possession of information potentially damaging to Nike, and further agreed to ‘retain’ Avenatti and another individual to conduct a supposed ‘internal investigation’ – an investigation that neither Nike nor Client-1 requested – for which Avenatti demanded to be paid, at a minimum, between $15 million and $25 million,” prosecutors said in a statement.
In lieu of such a retainer, prosecutors say Avenatti demanded a total payment of $22.5 million from Nike to resolve any claims his client may have had and to buy the attorney’s silence.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss released this statement regarding the sentencing: “Michael Avenatti used illegal and extortionate threats and betrayed one of his clients for the purpose of seeking to obtain millions of dollars for himself. Not only did Avenatti attempt to weaponize his law license and celebrity to seek to extort payments for himself, he also defrauded his own client. Avenatti will now serve substantial time in prison for his criminal conduct.”