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Spencer Platt/Getty Attorney Michael Avenatti
Michael Avenatti, the California attorney who rose to fame while representing adult film star Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against former President Donald Trump, was sentenced to 30 months in prison this week, after being convicted of trying to extort $25 million from the Nike company.
The celebrity attorney, 50, was convicted in February 2020 on charges that alleged he tried to bribe Nike into paying him millions while threatening to expose the shoe company for allegedly making illicit payments to top high school basketball players, according to CNN.
At the time, Avenatti was representing California high school basketball coach Gary Franklin and prosecutors say the celebrity lawyer was $11 million in debt.
According to an official statement from the Southern District of New York's District Attorney's Office, Avenatti's scheme "unfolded in less than a week," and involved the attorney threatening 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."
The district attorney's office added that Avenatti told representatives for Nike that he would hold off on conducting the press conference if Nike made a payment of $1.5 million to his client.
In announcing the sentence, U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe said the attorney "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," Gardephe said.
Several outlets reported that Avenatti "openly wept when he spoke to the court on Thursday."
"Your honor, I've learned that all the fame, notoriety and money in the world is meaningless. TV and Twitter, your honor, mean nothing," he said, USA Today reported.
According to the statement from the district attorney's office, Avenatti was sentenced to 30 months in prison, along with three years of supervised release. The Court will determine the necessary restitution at a later date.
Following the news of Avenatti's sentencing, his former client Daniels said in a statement that she hoped the punishment would help the attorney realize "he must change his life."
"He was a man you wanted to trust and believe in, but the longer I knew him I began witnessing his lies and dishonesty until I realized I too became his victim," Daniels said in the statement released Thursday, according to Fox News. "I am sure today he found a reckoning. Let's hope that that leads to [an] honest realization that he must change his life."
Avenatti rose to national prominence when he took Daniels as a client in 2018. Daniels alleged that she was paid $130,000 in 2016 by Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, to stay silent about an alleged fling she claimed she had with Trump.
In 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty in federal court to arranging a nondisclosure agreement for which he paid Daniels $130,000 (a sum that amounted to a campaign contribution violation during the 2016 election cycle, as it exceeded the federal limit).
Cohen told a federal judge at the time that Trump had directed him pay off two women, including Daniels, into staying silent about the details of their affairs. Trump has denied the affairs took place.
Avenatti and Daniels' relationship soured with time, though, particularly in the wake of the lawyer being charged with fraud in March 2019, when California prosecutors argued he was cheating his clients out of millions of dollars and dodging taxes.
His fraud trial begins next week in Los Angeles, according to POLITICO, and will be followed later in the year by a second criminal trial in California as well as a separate trial in Manhattan, where he faces charges that he cheated Daniels, specifically, out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.