WASHINGTON — Attorney Michael Avenatti was arrested on extortion charges involving Nike, prosecutors in the Southern District of New York announced Monday.
According to court filings, Avenatti and an unnamed attorney identified as a co-conspirator approached the sports apparel giant with disparaging information and threatened to go public unless their client was paid millions of dollars.
The lawyers also sought to be hired, and paid millions, by Nike to conduct an internal investigation, court filings said.
Avenatti later told representatives from Nike that if he were paid $22.5 million, he would keep silent, according to court filings.
Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. District Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said during a press conference Monday that Avenatti’s actions were out of bounds, particularly since the lawyer was not even threatening litigation.
“Avenatti’s conduct had nothing to do with zealous advocacy for a client or any other kind of legal work,” Berman said, comparing it to a run-of-the-mill shakedown.
Adding to Avenatti’s legal issues, the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Central District of California simultaneously charged him on two counts of federal bank and wire fraud.
The attorney became a media fixture last year after representing Stormy Daniels, an adult film star who alleges that she had an affair with Donald Trump in 2006 and was then paid $130,000 shortly before the U.S. election to keep it quiet.
Daniels and Avenatti parted ways earlier this year. In a tweet, Daniels said that she was “saddened but not shocked” by her former lawyer’s arrest.
My statement regarding my former attorney Mr. Avenatti.. pic.twitter.com/9aKYCPNN6y
— Stormy Daniels (@StormyDaniels) March 25, 2019