Supreme Court Rejects Bid to Hear Michael Avenatti’s Appeal to Overturn $25M Nike Extortion Conviction

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The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a bid to hear an appeal from disgraced celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti over his conviction for trying to extort up to $25 million from Nike.

The justices did not comment on Tuesday’s rejection, but Avenatti’s lawyers argued that the fraud statute under which he was convicted is unconstitutionally vague. They also contended that Avenatti cannot be criminally charged with plotting to extort money from Nike because he was engaged in settlement negotiations. The court’s rejection means Avenatti’s conviction on all three federal charges will remain in place.

Tuesday’s decision follows a similar move by the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year, which struck down Avenatti’s appeal claim that there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction.

Avenatti, who rose to fame representing adult film star Stormy Daniels in a suit against President Donald Trump, faced three counts related to what prosecutors said was on extortion attempt: intent to extort; violation of the Hobbs Act, which criminalizes extortion; and honest service wire fraud. Avanatti had pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The embattled lawyer was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison, and ordered to pay $259,800.50 in restitution, for the scheme back in July 2021 after being found guilty in February 2020 on all charges related to the plot. With his conviction, Avenatti faced the possibility of more than 40 years in prison.

“The verdict speaks volumes,” Nike said in a statement in 2020. “We thank the jurors for their time and service which is the bedrock of the American judicial system.”

In March 2019, Avenatti was arrested 15 minutes after he tweeted that he planned to reveal a basketball bribery scandal amid the annual March Madness tournament. Prosecutors initially charged him with four counts related to accusations that he plotted to siphon millions of dollars from the Swoosh by threatening to disclose evidence of misconduct on the part of Nike executives, ahead of the company’s third-quarter report. He alleged that Nike made illicit payments to elite student athletes, among them No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick Zion Williamson.

An amended indictment, prosecutors removed two conspiracy counts but added the charge for honest services wire fraud, accusing Avenatti of lying to one of his clients as part of the extortion attempt.

This isn’t Avenatti’s only conviction. The disgraced lawyer is also serving a 14-year sentence for stealing millions of dollars from his clients – one of whom was a paraplegic with mental health issues – and for obstructing the IRS’s efforts to collect more than $3 million in payroll taxes from an Avenatti-owned coffee business. He was also ordered to pay $10,810,709 in restitution to four clients and to the IRS for this conviction.

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