Michael Avenatti, who was hired to represent Stormy Daniels in her case with President Donald Trump, was charged with what prosecutors called a $20 million “shakedown” effort against Nike Inc. In addition to the extortion charge, Avenatti was accused of a separate charge of embezzlement by the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.
Avenatti, who was arrested in New York, was later released on a $300,000 bond during his hearing at the U.S. District Court in New York. Following the hearing, Avenatti was quoted saying, “when due process occurs I will be fully exonerated and justice will prevail.”
Prosecutors claimed that Avenatti and an unnamed lawyer met with Nike’s attorneys and threatened to release evidence against Nike, linking the company to bribing top high school players to play for Nike sponsored college teams.
Avenatti reportedly threatened to make the evidence against Nike public unless they both paid his client $1.5 million and hired him and the unnamed lawyer to carry out an internal investigation for between $15-25 million. Avenatti also proposed a $22.5 million reward for his silence according to prosecutors.
“A suit and tie does not mask the fact that, at its core, this was an old-fashioned shakedown,” said the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, Geoffrey Berman, at a news conference. Federal prosecutors in California also revealed unrelated charges against Avenatti thus accusing him of misusing settlement money of $1.6 million to pay for his own personal expenses.
Avenatti faces up to 50 years in prison for two of his most serious charges. Stormy Daniels said she was “saddened but not shocked” after learning of her former attorney’s arrest. She later added that she fired him after finding out he acted “dishonestly” with her.