Michael Avenatti Should Get ‘Substantial’ Sentence For Harming Nike’s Reputation, Prosecutors Say
On Wednesday, a judge was urged by prosecutors to levy a “very substantial” prison sentence on Michael Avenatti, 50, for attempting to extort millions of dollars from Nike.
Avenatti is an attorney from California who gained fame three years ago after he represented porn star Stormy Daniels against Donald Trump. Prosecutors pointed out in a Manhattan federal court submission that Probation Office officials suggest an eight-year prison sentence for Avenatti.
“The defendant, a prominent attorney and media personality with a large public following, betrayed his client and sought to enrich himself by weaponizing his public profile in an attempt to extort a publicly traded company out of tens of millions of dollars. This was an egregious abuse of trust, and it warrants real and serious punishment,” wrote the prosecutors.
The government said that while Avenatti represented the director of a youth basketball program in Los Angeles, he attempted to force the apparel maker to pay him at least $25 million to keep him quiet about accusations about corruption involving Nike and college athletics.
Avenatti was convicted during a trial last year. In a pre-sentence submission last week, his lawyers said six-month imprisonment and a year of home detention would be enough punishment.
Prosecutors attached a victim impact statement from Nike and Avenatti’s former client, Gary Franklin Sr.
In one of the statements, Nike’s lawyers wrote that Avenatti harmed the company when he threatened to cause Nike billions of dollars of losses by falsely claiming in a tweet – before his arrest – that criminal conduct at Nike reached the “highest levels.” Due to this, they said the company’s stock price instantly dropped a dollar, representing $300 million.
“Nike executives were shocked,” the lawyers wrote. “Nike had made a decision to not pay Mr. Avenatti, and now they were watching as he carried out what he had criminally threatened to do.”
Lawyers said that Avenatti shared a “daily barrage of Twitter posts” weeks after he was arrested, “leveling provably false accusations against Nike and the high school athletes who competed in Nike’s grassroots program.”
Franklin said in his victim impact statement that Avenatti’s actions “devastated” him “financially, professionally, and emotionally” and asked the sentencing judge to take that into consideration when deciding Avenatti’s punishment.
“The actions of Mr. Avenatti have destroyed my reputation in my community. Enrollment in my club is at a record low. I no longer feel welcome in places I once felt comfortable. I have struggled with my mental health. My family has suffered. Because of Mr. Avenatti’s actions, this ‘scandal’ is now the first result when you Google my name,” wrote Franklin.
Last week, Avenatti’s lawyers said their client deserved leniency partly because no money was lost from the crime. They claimed that Avenatti had suffered enough with public shame and will never be able to practice law again.
“He cannot go anywhere in public without inducing and subjecting himself to vitriolic comments and abuse. These circumstances alone would deter anyone in Avenatti’s shoes from engaging in similar conduct,” the lawyers wrote.