Louis Lanzano/Bloomberg via Getty Images
(NEW YORK) — Not long ago, Michael Avenatti was a fixture on cable news, the bellicose nemesis of former President Donald Trump as lawyer to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. He even briefly considered a run for president.
On Thursday, Avenatti dropped another few pegs on his descent into disrepute.
A federal judge in Manhattan sentenced Avenatti to 30 months in prison for trying to extort millions of dollars from Nike.
“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.”
Prosecutors said Avenatti deserved a substantial sentence after he “sought to enrich himself by weaponizing his public profile in an attempt to extort a publicly-traded company out of tens of millions of dollars.”
“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.
The sentence exceeded the six months the defense asked for, saying Avenatti had been “openly mocked” by Trump and suffered enough.
Avenatti was convicted by a federal jury in February 2020 after a two-week trial in New York City.
Trump once tweeted, sarcastically, “Such a fine guy! Presidential aspirations you know!” about Avenatti after his request for bail was denied in March 2020 as he awaited sentencing.
Avenatti attempted to extort at least $15 million from Nike or else he threatened to use his media influence to damage the brand, according to prosecutors.
He faces separate charges in New York for allegedly stealing a book advance from Daniels and in California for defrauding other clients.
Daniels, who praised the conviction last year, dumped Avenatti as her lawyer in early 2019.
ABC News’ Mark Osborne contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.