US celebrity lawyer Avenatti gets 2.5 years for Nike extortion

New York (AFP) –


Michael Avenatti, the celebrity lawyer who represented porn actress Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against ex-president Donald Trump, was sentenced to two and a half years in prison Thursday for attempting to extort Nike.

The 30-month sentence marks an incredible fall from grace for the 50-year-old California attorney, who at one point presented himself as a major adversary to Trump.

Avenatti was found guilty by a New York jury in February 2020 of trying to extort millions of dollars from Nike.

Investigators said Avenatti had asked executives at the sports apparel giant to pay him to keep him from sharing alleged evidence that he said would show how the company had bribed amateur basketball players.

"I and I alone have destroyed my career, my relationships and my life," a tearful Avenatti told Manhattan federal judge Paul Gardephe, according to reporters in the courtroom.

The judge said Avenatti had become "drunk on the power of his platform —- or what he perceived his platform to be" as he handed down the sentence.

Avenatti's present situation is a far cry from the dizzy heights of February 2018 to March 2019 when he was the lawyer for Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.

He became a household name during her legal battles with Trump over hush money she received for an alleged tryst with the then-real estate developer in 2006.

Reveling in his role as an outspoken critic of the president and darling of America's left, Avenatti appeared frequently on camera and on social media, raising suspicions that he harbored political ambitions -- perhaps even for the White House.

He also helped defend alleged sex abuse victims of R&B superstar R. Kelly.

Just over a year after making his splash on the national scene, however, Avenatti was arrested in March 2019 for the attempted extortion of Nike, as well as tax evasion.

Avenatti's legal troubles are far from over. He faces a fraud trial in California and embezzlement charges in New York where he is accused of stealing funds intended for Clifford.