Michael Avenatti sentenced to 2½ years in Nike extortion case

Michael Avenatti, the one-time celebrity lawyer who rose to national fame by representing porn star Stormy Daniels, was sentenced to 2½ years in federal prison Thursday for attempting to extort millions of dollars from Nike.

Avenatti, 50, who appeared in person in Manhattan federal court, apologized for his crimes before Judge Paul Gardephe handed down the 30-month sentence.

“I lost my way,” he said, at one point bursting into tears during the hours-long court hearing. “I betrayed my own values, friends, family and myself.”

The now-infamous California lawyer, who is suspended from practicing in the state, was convicted of attempted extortion and honest-services fraud in February 2020 for trying to shake down the sportswear company for more than $20 million.

As part of the scheme, Avenatti demanded tens of millions of dollars from the company — and threatened to make embarrassing statements about it on his widely followed social media accounts if it didn’t pay up. 

Michael Avenatti was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison on July 8, 2021.
Michael Avenatti was sentenced to 2½ years in prison on July 8, 2021.

The loudmouth lawyer, who sparred with then-President Donald Trump and once floated a 2020 presidential run, hatched the attempted shakedown scheme while he was representing a youth basketball coach, who hired Avenatti after Nike ended sponsorship of his league. 

“I just wanted a lawyer who could convey to Nike that I was an honorable man who was just trying to keep his program,” the coach, Gary Franklin, wrote in a victim impact statement filed in the case prior to the sentencing. 

“I looked to Mr. Avenatti as a trusted advisor and he put his interests over my own. He has never apologized to me for this — and to my knowledge, he has expressed no remorse for his behavior,” he added. 

Prior to sentencing, federal prosecutors had requested a “very substantial” sentence for the lawyer, accusing him in court papers of specifically trying to benefit himself and not once mentioning his client while trying to extort Nike.

The US Probation Department, meanwhile, asked for an eight-year sentence, court filings show.

Avenatti faced a statutory maximum of 42 years, the judge said.

The disgraced lawyer’s sentencing Thursday wraps up just one of many criminal proceedings he’s charged in in New York and California. 

Michael Avenatti is the former lawyer of adult-film actress Stormy Daniels.
Michael Avenatti is the former lawyer of adult film actress Stormy Daniels.
AFP via Getty Images

He faces a fraud trial in California and a separate case in Manhattan federal court for allegedly bilking Daniels out of hundreds of thousands of dollars she earned by inking a book deal. 

Avenatti previously repped Daniels, a porn star whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, who claims she was paid $130,000 by Trump’s attorney in exchange for her silence about a tryst she had with the former president. Trump denies he ever slept with Daniels.  

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