Prosecutors seek ‘very substantial’ prison time for Avenatti

Larry Neumeister
Associated Press

New York — Prosecutors urged a judge Wednesday to impose a “very substantial” prison sentence on Michael Avenatti for trying to extort millions of dollars from Nike.

Prosecutors noted in a Manhattan federal court submission that Probation Office officials recommend an eight-year prison term for the California attorney who gained fame three years ago through his representation of porn star Stormy Daniels against then-President Donald Trump.

“The defendant, a prominent attorney and media personality with a large public following, betrayed his client and 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. This was an egregious abuse of trust, and it warrants real and serious punishment,” prosecutors wrote.

Michael Avenatti

The government said Avenatti, representing the director of a youth basketball program in Los Angeles, tried to force the apparel maker to pay him up to $25 million to keep him quiet about allegations of corruption involving Nike and college athletics.

Avenatti, 50, was convicted at trial last year. In a pre-sentence submission last week, his lawyers urged leniency, saying six months in prison and a year of home detention would be sufficient punishment.

Prosecutors attached victim impact statements from Nike and Avenatti’s former client, Gary Franklin Sr. They urged the judge to order Avenatti to pay $1 million in restitution to Nike for its legal fees.

Last week, Avenatti’s lawyers said their client deserved leniency in part because nobody lost money from the crime, he had suffered enormous public shame and a recurrence was impossible since Avenatti will never practice law again.

“He cannot go anywhere in public without inducing and subjecting himself to vitriolic comments and abuse. These circumstances alone would deter anyone in Avenatti’s shoes from engaging in similar conduct,” they wrote.

Later this year, Avenatti faces trial in Los Angeles federal court on charges alleging he cheated clients and others out of millions of dollars.

Early next year, he is scheduled to go to trial in Manhattan on charges that he defrauded Daniels out of hundreds of thousands of dollars she was owed for a book deal. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.