31 Aug Avenatti Loses Conviction Appeal in Nike Extortion Case
The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on Wednesday rejected Michael Avenatti’s claim that there was no sufficient evidence to support his February 2020 conviction on charges of extortion and honest services fraud for threatening to smear Nike in the media if the company did not pay his retainer fee in the tens of millions of dollars.
A three-judge panel that heard Avenatti’s appeal in Lower Manhattan found that evidence, including bank statements, text messages, emails, and witness testimony, was enough to permit “a reasonable jury to conclude that Avenatti had no claim of right to a personal payment from Nike, nor a $15 million to $25 million payment.” The judges decided 3-0 against Avennati’s appeal.
The judges also rejected Avenatti’s claim that jurors had received instructions in the law and that the trial judge missed a deadline for requiring him to pay restitution to Nike.
Avennati was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison and ordered to pay $260,000 in restitution.
Avenatti’s sentence remanded him to federal prison until 2036 in Los Angeles, where he lived and practiced law. As part of his sentence, his law license was suspended. His conviction in February 2020 in the Nike matter centered on a tape-recorded threat he made the prior March intending to hurt Nike’s reputation and stock price by exposing the company’s alleged corrupt payments to families of college basketball prospects.
Avenatti, in the tape recording, threatened to “blow the lid” on Nike at a press conference unless the company paid $25 million for him to conduct a probe, plus $1.5 million to his whistleblowing client, youth basketball coach Gary Franklin. Franklin testified that he did not want an investigation and wanted Nike to resume sponsoring his team.
Nike denied any wrongdoing.