In a filing late Tuesday in New York’s Southern district, prosecutors wrote that the government “presently estimates that the defendant’s debts at that time were, conservatively, in excess of $15 million.”
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In an email to FN on Thursday, Avenatti declined those claims, writing: “Any claim that I was $15 million in debt is ridiculous and absurd. I look forward to the trial at which the facts will be known and after which I will be exonerated.”
The embattled attorney, who rose to fame representing adult film star Stormy Daniels in suits against President Donald Trump, was arrested on March 15 minutes after he tweeted that he planned to reveal a basketball bribery scandal during the annual March Madness tournament. Prosecutors charged Avenatti due to accusations that he tried to extort more than $20 million from the Swoosh; the prosecution claimed Avenatti threatened to disclose evidence of misconduct by Nike executives, ahead of the brand’s third quarter earnings report. Avenatti alleges that Nike made illicit payments to elite student athletes, including Zion Williamson.
On Dec. 17, Avenatti pled not guilty to the three counts against him, which include wire fraud and extortion. The case is slated to go to trial on Jan. 21 in New York. In a filing Tuesday, Avenatti’s legal team said he “intend[s] to argue that he is not guilty of the crimes charged and that this case does not belong, and never should have been brought, in federal district court as a criminal case.” Avenatti also argues the case does not belong in a civil courtroom.
Nike did not respond to a request for comment.
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