Celebrity lawyer and 1996 Penn alumnus Michael Avenatti was sentenced to 30 months in prison on July 8 for extortion against Nike.
Avenatti — who is best known for representing adult film star Stormy Daniels in her lawsuits against former President Donald Trump — was convicted in February 2020 for fraud and attempted extortion during a negotiation for one of his clients, youth basketball coach Gary Franklin, The Washington Post reported. The jury found that Avenatti threatened to expose the company’s alleged misconduct if it didn’t meet his demands.
Franklin asked Avenatti to negotiate a settlement to restore his league’s Nike sponsorship and to report illegal behavior by two Nike executives. Avenatti and lawyer Mark Geragos used Franklin’s name without his knowledge to insist that Nike pay them $25 million to investigate internal wrongdoings or he would expose the company's alleged misconduct at a news conference.
According to The Washington Post, Avenatti spent over three months in jail last year — some of which he spent in solitary confinement — before the COVID-19 pandemic began, after which he was transferred to home confinement.
During the latest trials, prosecutors sought a prison sentence of over 10 years, while Avenatti’s defense lawyer pushed for six months. The judge decided on July 8 to set his penal sentence to 2.5 years.
“[Geragos] suffered no consequences as a result of his conduct and he was a central figure in the criminal conduct," United States District Judge Paul Gardephe told The Washington Post.
Avenatti is scheduled to be on trial again next year on charges that he defrauded other clients, including Daniels, The Washington Post reported. Daniels, who claimed to have a sexual encounter with Trump while he was married to former First Lady Melania Trump, was paid for her silence by Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen.
In September 2018, Avenatti announced he was representing Julie Swetnick, a woman who alleged that then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and his friend Mike Judge would spike drinks at high school house parties and subsequently gang-rape women.