After three days of deliberations in the case, brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, a jury found him guilty on all three counts, including attempted extortion and honest services fraud. Avenatti, who is scheduled to be sentenced on June 17, faces up to 40 years in prison in the case. He is set to stand trial in a separate federal criminal case on May 19.
Avenatti was charged last spring with an array of federal crimes in both New York and California, where he lived. Though he spent much of last year free on bail, a judge revoked that deal in January — after prosecutors argued that he was continuing to engage in criminal activity — and Avenatti was in federal custody as he stood trial in New York this year.
In making their case, federal prosecutors in Manhattan specifically accused Avenatti of trying to extort money from Nike in exchange for evidence he said he had of misconduct by company employees in the recruitment of college basketball players. He demanded that Nike hire him to conduct an internal investigation into its criminal exposure, prosecutors said, contending that he had alternatively requested $22.5 million to buy his silence and resolve potential claims by a youth basketball coach whom he said he represented.
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“Today a unanimous jury found Michael Avenatti guilty of misusing his client’s information in an effort to extort tens of millions of dollars,” Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement Friday. “While the defendant may have tried to hide behind legal terms and a suit and tie, the jury clearly saw the defendant’s scheme for what it was — an old fashioned shakedown.”
A lawyer for Avenatti, Scott Srebnick, said by email Friday that Avenatti planned to appeal the conviction. “Michael Avenatti has been a fighter his entire life,” Srebnick wrote, saying he believed there was “substantial” basis for the appeal. “The inhumane conditions of solitary confinement he has endured over the past month weeks would break anyone but he remains strong,” he said.
Many who had been former targets of Avenatti’s public attacks celebrated Friday’s verdict.
“Aged like a fine wine,” Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, wrote on Twitter, posting an October 2018 message from Avenatti that had predicted the younger Trump would be indicted by the end of that year. “#Basta” Trump Jr. added in his message, referencing the hashtag, meaning “enough,” that Avenatti had made his catchphrase.
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As he rocketed to fame in 2018 and toyed with declaring a presidential run, Avenatti maintained a cocksure public image that masked disarray that became evident in a trail of civil disputes, bankruptcy filings and alleged financial crimes going back several years.
In a separate case still pending in California, Avenatti has been accused of tax crimes and financial fraud, including stealing millions of dollars from clients and of lying repeatedly about his business and income to an IRS collection agent, creditors, a bankruptcy court and a bankruptcy trustee. He has pleaded not guilty.
Though Avenatti has suggested that he believes the charges against him are politically motivated, prosecutors have noted that the IRS’ investigation of him dated to September 2016 — before Donald Trump was elected and well before Avenatti began representing Daniels. He is scheduled to stand trial in the Central District of California this spring.
Avenatti has also been charged with stealing nearly $300,000 from Daniels, the client who propelled him to prominence in 2018. Prosecutors accused him last spring of taking part of Daniels’ book advance and putting it toward his personal expenses, including dry cleaning, food deliveries and a monthly payment on a Ferrari.
On Friday, Daniels issued a statement on Instagram saying she was “not surprised his dishonesty has been revealed on a grand scale.” Calling Avenatti “arrogant, fraudulent and overly aggressive,” she added, “Although clearly a just result, I do feel sad for his children and foolish for believing his lies for so long.”
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Both cases that Avenatti brought on Daniels’ behalf against the president were dismissed in federal court; in one, a defamation suit, she was ordered to pay Trump nearly $300,000 in legal fees.
Even as he faced multiple federal charges, Avenatti had sought out the spotlight and the news media, which had helped boost his profile across more than 300 television appearances and countless interviews, some with The New York Times.
Last month, he continued to release a range of messages on Twitter, commenting on the impeachment of Trump, emphasizing his support of former Vice President Joe Biden in the Democratic presidential primary and posting documents relating to his criminal defense. His messages, to an audience of roughly 760,000 followers — fewer than the number he had in late 2018 — stopped when he was jailed in mid-January.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times .