A federal jury has found attorney Michael Avenatti guilty of trying to extort millions of dollars from athletic brand Nike.
The verdict was returned Friday by a Manhattan federal jury after it deliberated charges of attempted extortion and honest services fraud in what prosecutors said was an attempt by Avenatti to extort up to $25 million from Nike with threats to otherwise harm it.
Prosecutors said the 48-year-old attorney, best known for his representation of adult film star Stormy Daniels, threatened to expose claims that Nike paid off high school basketball players to steer them toward Nike-sponsored colleges if the company failed to pay up.
The charges carry a combined potential penalty of 42 years in prison.
During his trial, Avenatti’s attorneys argued that he was “using tough negotiating tactics with Nike, at his client’s request,” and that he was not trying to extort the company, the Wall Street Journal reported.
He did not testify during the trial, though jurors heard his voice in tapes recorded by Nike’s outside counsel, Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, according to the Journal.
“This is what extortion sounds like,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Podolsky said Friday in closing arguments, according to The New York Times.
Authorities in New York arrested Avenatti in March 2019. He also faces charges of bank and wire fraud in California.
He remains held without bail. Federal prosecutors in Los Angeles succeeded last month in getting him locked up after saying he violated his $300,000 bail by moving money around illegally after his arrest.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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