California lawyer Michael Avenatti convicted of attempted extortion

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Yesterday, a United States federal jury convicted Michael Avenatti, the California, US lawyer who represented porn star Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against US President Donald Trump, of trying to extort Nike, an athletic equipment company. The trial was held in Manhattan, and was one of three facing Avenatti. He was also accused of defrauding clients in California, and of keeping for himself money that his client Stormy Daniels had earned from her book.

Avenatti in 2018
Image: Luke Harold.

The United States government accused Avenatti of trying of pressure Nike for about 15–25 million dollars, threatening to give a news conference that would damage the company's stock price, as well as its reputation. Avenatti pled not guilty to the charges. His legal team argued he simply represented his client, Gary Franklin, in a negotiation. The government suggested Avenatti's debt was a factor in his decision making; according to prosecutors, he owed over $850,000 to the Internal Revenue Service, as well as penalties and interest, and in total was at least $11 million in debt at the time.

Avenatti was charged with three distinct crimes: transmission of interstate communications with intent to extort, attempted extortion, and honest services wire fraud. He was found guilty on all counts. Together, the crimes carry a prison term of up to 42 years. NBC News reported Avenatti is to be sentenced in June.

Scott Srebnick, a member of Avenatti's legal team, announced Avenatti intended to appeal the conviction.