Michael Avenatti, the former celebrity attorney, was sentenced to 30 months in prison by a federal judge in Manhattan on Wednesday. He was convicted in February of 2020, by a federal jury and a two-week trial in New York City, of three counts for threatening to publicly accuse the sportswear company, Nike, of illicitly paying amateur basketball players unless they paid him.
“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,” U.S. Attorney for the Southern District Geoffrey Berman said in a statement at the time of his conviction.
Avenatti rose to fame as Stormy Daniels lawyer and became a fixture on cable news. He was a nemesis of former President Donald Trump as the attorney for Daniels, the adult film actress. He even briefly considered a run for president.
“Michael Avenatti used illegal and extortionate threats and betrayed one of his clients for the purpose of seeking to obtain millions of dollars for himself,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a statement about the sentencing. Not only did Avenatti attempt to weaponize his law license and celebrity to seek to extort payments for himself, he also defrauded his own client. Avenatti will now serve substantial time in prison for his criminal conduct.”
The sentence exceeded the six months the defense asked for, saying Avenatti had been “openly mocked” by Trump and has suffered enough. Avenatti openly wept when he spoke to the court on Thursday.
Prosecutors said Avenatti deserved a substantial sentence after he attempted to enrich himself by weaponizing his public profile in an attempt to extort a publicly-traded company out of tens of millions of dollars.
Daniels, who praised the conviction last year, had dumped Avenatti as her lawyer in 2019.
After Avenatti’s request for bail was denied in March 2020, Trump did tweet, “Such a fine guy! Presidential aspirations you know!”
Avenatti still faces separate charges in New York for allegedly stealing a book advance from Daniels and in California for defrauding other clients.