California celebrity lawyer, Michael Avenatti, has been sentenced to 30 months in prison. The brash lawyer was indicted of blackmailing Nike to pay up to $25 million or be accused of paying basketball players illegally.
While representing youth basketball coach Gary Franklin who was angry at the way Nike ended its league sponsorship in 2019, Avenatti had demanded that Nike pay Franklin $1.5 million, pay him and another lawyer $12 million, and guarantee the payment of between $15 million and $25 million more for internal investigations.
US District Judge Paul G. Gardephe said Avenatti was greedy and took advantage of his client’s claims against Nike to further his own agenda for enrichment. He said it was outrageous that Avenatti “hijacked his client’s claims, and he used those claims to further his own agenda, which was to extort millions of dollars from Nike for himself.”
The judge also ruled that Avenatti “had become drunk on the power of his platform, or what he perceived the power of his platform to be. He had become someone who operated as if the laws and the rules that applied to everyone else didn’t apply to him.”
Avenatti became very famous when he represented Stormy Daniels against President Donald Trump. The 50-year-old lawyer in 2018 filed several federal lawsuits against Trump and went as far as making unsavory statements against the president on cable TV to bring him down. At a point when he had become very famous through the Daniels case, he said he could contest against Trump in 2020 if he wanted since raising funds would not be an issue with him.
But his political rants began to whittle when prosecutors in California and New York accused him of fraud in 2019. He was charged with defrauding his many clients to the tune of millions of dollars and not paying taxes to the IRS. He was charged with enjoying a $200,000-a-month lifestyle and even cheating Daniels of $300,000 which she got from a book deal connected with her lawsuit against President Trump. These cases are still pending.
On the Nike blackmail, Judge Gardephe said Avenatti tried to extort Nike by “weaponizing his public profile” to enrich himself. Avenatti, who broke down into tears in court, said he was ashamed of his conduct and that all the fame and wealth he had acquired through opportunistic means were nothing compared to his travail. He said his children even ought to be ashamed of him and to learn from his downfall.
“Your honor, I’ve learned that all the fame, notoriety, and money in the world is meaningless. TV and Twitter, your honor, mean nothing,” Avenatt said while sobbing. “Every father wants their children to be proud of them. I want mine to be ashamed. Because if they are ashamed, it means their moral compass is exactly where it should be.”
Judge Gardephe ordered him to report to a federal prison in Oregon by September 15 where he will serve his two and half years prison sentence.