Celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti was found guilty on Friday by a U.S. jury for attempting to extort Nike out of millions of dollars while also defrauding a youth basketball coach he represented.
Prior to this case, Avenatti was known for the hundreds of tv appearances he made while representing adult film actress Stormy Daniels in lawsuits against U.S. President Donald Trump.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) (MARCH 25,2019) U.S. ATTORNEY FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK, GEOFFREY BERMAN, SAYING:
"Today we announce criminal extortion charges against Michael Avenatti"
In this case, Avenatti was accused of threatening to publicize allegations the sports apparel company made illegal payments to families of college basketball recruits unless the company paid him and another lawyer up to $25 million to conduct an internal probe, and paid the coach he was representing an additional $1.5 million.
Nike has denied any wrongdoing.
In addition, Avenatti was also charged with defrauding his client Gary Franklin by not telling him he was demanding a probe before agreeing to settle.
The youth football coach, Gary Franklin testified he did not want a probe or press conference, preferring a quiet settlement - acknowledging that he hired Avenatti after seeing him defend Stormy Daniels.
Avenatti's lawyers argued their client had acted in good faith and did exactly what Franklin wanted in demanding a probe and threatening publicity that could expose Nike's alleged corruption, and harm its reputation and stock price.
Avenatti's lawyer Danya Perry says they plan to appeal.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) AVENATTI'S ATTORNEY DANYA PERRY, SAYING:
"We are obviously disappointed in the verdict in this case, and even surprised by it. But we have preserved some significant issues on appeal. We will be pursuing that. And we stand by our client. And we'll just look forward to the next phase."
Avenatti's sentencing is currently scheduled for June 17th, where he could face more than 40 years in prison.