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(UPDATED 5:50 PM with Avenatti posting bond) Celebrity attorney Michael Avenatti has been released on $300,000 bond, and says he expects to be “fully exonerated” of federal extortion and bank and wire fraud charges.
The attorney Stormy Daniels used to sue President Donald Trump likely is lawyering up himself today. Michael Avenatti has been arrested after federal prosecutors in New York charged him with trying to extort $20 million from Nike and feds in Los Angeles filed wire and bank fraud charges.
He is expected to make his first court appearance today in Manhattan. He is expected to face the charges in the California case at a later date.
Avenatti faces four counts of extortion from the Southern District of New York for attempting to extract more than $20M in payments from Nike, by “threatening to use his ability to garner publicity to inflict substantial financial and reputational harm on the company if his demands were not met.”
“Our system of justice requires and relies on attorneys and member of the bar to not simply follow the law, but uphold its finest principles and ideals,” Geoffrey S. Berman. U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York said at a Monday afternoon presser.
“When lawyers use their law license as weapons to extort payments for themselves, they are no longer acting as attoneys; they are acting as criminals and they will be held responsible for their conduct,” Berman continued.
“A suit and tie does not mask the fact that, at its core, this was an old-fashioned shakedown,” Berman insisted.
He pointedly remarked that Avenatis conduct “had nothing to do with zealous advocacy for the client or any other kind of legitimate legal work,” anticipating Avenattis legal defense. Instead, Avenatti used illegal and extortionate threats to obtain millions for himself.”
According to Berman, the celebrity attorney pressured Nike to pay or risk having him hold one of his well-known, widely televised press conferences which he claimed would dramatically drive down the stock price of the company and its market value.
In one recorded meeting, Avenatti said, if Nike did not meet his demand, the company might die or, if not, was “going to be inflicted with cut after cut after cut after cut.”
The drama played out last week over just a few days. Avenatti first met with company reps on Tuesday, claiming to represent a client who coached an amateur high school basketball team sponsored by Nike. The team recently lost that contract worth $72K a year, and a coach claimed to have information about potential misconduct by a Nike employee, Berman alleged.
Avenatti made clear he was approaching the comapny at a time intended to inflict maximum damage: on the eve of the NCAA tourny and the companys quarterly earnings call.
Following that first March 19 meeting, Nike reps contacted Bermans office. All subsequent interactions between Nike and Avenatti were recorded and overseen by the FBI and Bermans office.
Avenatti was arrested in Manhattan on Monday, at the site of a planned final meeting with Nike reps, William Sweeney, assistant director-in-charge of the New Yorks FBI office said at the presser.
Earlier Monday, Avenatti tweeted that he would hold a news conference on Tuesday “to disclose a major high school/college basketball scandal perpetrated by the Oregon-based shoe and apparel giant:
Tmrw at 11 am ET, we will be holding a press conference to disclose a major high school/college basketball scandal perpetrated by @Nike that we have uncovered. This criminal conduct reaches the highest levels of Nike and involves some of the biggest names in college basketball.
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) March 25, 2019
In L.A., he is charged with two counts of “[embezzling] a clients money in order to pay his own expenses and debts — as well as those of his coffee business and law firm — and also defrauded a bank by using phony tax returns to obtain millions of dollars in loans.” (Read the filing here.
“Avenatti negotiated a settlement which called for $1.6 million in settlement money to be paid on January 10, 2018, but then gave the client a bogus settlement agreement with a false payment date of March 10, 2018,” Nick Hanna, U.S. Read More – Source