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Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels' disgraced ex-lawyer, fails again, this time proving unable to overturn Nike extortion conviction
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Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels' disgraced ex-lawyer, fails again, this time proving unable to overturn Nike extortion conviction

Disgraced lawyer and repeat MSNBC guest Michael Avenatti has done a lot of losing since threatening to run for president. Avenatti's latest effort to arrest that trend proved unsuccessful Wednesday, as his attempt to shorten his 19-year prison stint was rejected by a federal appeals court.

In June 2022, Avenatti was sentenced to four years behind bars for defrauding his porn star client Stormy Daniels out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Then, just a few months later, he was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison for tax and wire fraud, having both stolen millions from his clients and failed to pay taxes for a coffee chain he owned.

"Michael Avenatti was a corrupt lawyer who claimed he was fighting for the little guy. In fact, he only cared about his own selfish interests," said U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada.

Years earlier — not long after receiving gratuitous praise from the likes of liberal talking heads Rachel Maddow, Stephen Colbert, and Lawrence O'Donnell and being hit with an accusation of domestic abuse for which he was not ultimately charged — Avenatti was found guilty on three felony charges in his Nike-related fraud and extortion case.

He was arrested on March 25, 2019, for threatening to damage the shoe company's reputation and tank its stock price if it refused to pay millions of dollars to him and his client, former Amateur Athletic Union basketball coach Gary Franklin.

Avenatti indicated on Twitter just before his arrest that he had planned to hold "a press conference to disclose a major high school/college basketball scandal" the next day.

Court documents indicated he told Nike reps, "I'm not f***ing around with this, and I'm not continuing to play games. ... You guys know enough now to know you've got a serious problem. And it's worth more in exposure to me to just blow the lid on this thing. A few million dollars doesn't move the needle for me," reported NBC News.

He demanded the company pay him up to $25 million to conduct a probe plus another $1.5 million to compensate his client.

Around the time he was cooking up his extortion scheme, the CNN regular had accrued at least $11 million of debt and recently gone through a divorce.

He was ultimately charged and convicted of conspiracy to commit extortion, transmission of interstate communications with intent to extort, and extortion, then sentenced to 2.5 years in prison and ordered to pay $260,000 in restitution.

In January, Avenatti asked the U.S. Second Circuit Court to overturn the verdict.

In an appellate brief, he suggested that "the evidence failed to establish wrongfulness. An investigation would have served Franklin’s objectives and, in seeking to conduct one, Avenatti did not disobey any of his client's instructions or impair his client’s rights, in particular because any settlement would have required Franklin’s consent. ... More fundamentally, an attorney does not commit criminal extortion by pairing a threat of economic harm with a request for compensation."

Reuters reported that in a 3-0 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Manhattan rejected Avenatti's claims about the evidence supposedly failing to support his conviction. The court minced no words, concluding his challenges were "meritless."

Contrary to Avenatti's contentions, the court indicated:

  • the "trial evidence was sufficient to support [his] conviction for the two charged extortion counts because a reasonable jury could find therefrom that Avenatti's threat to injure Nike's reputation and financial position was wrongful";
  • the "trial evidence was sufficient to support Avenatti's conviction for honest-services fraud because a reasonable jury could find therefrom that Avenatti solicited a bribe from Nike in the form of a quid pro quo"; and
  • the "district court adequately instructed the jury on an attorney's authority to act for his client, both generally and specifically as pertains to settling claims."

The 52-year-old in whom some Democrats once saw a future president will remain incarcerated at a federal prison near Los Angeles well into the 2030s.

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Joseph MacKinnon

Joseph MacKinnon

Joseph MacKinnon is a staff writer for Blaze News.
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