Michael Avenatti Sentenced to 2.5 Years In Prison for Trying to Extort $25M from Nike

Adam WellsJuly 8, 2021

In this Dec. 17, 2019 file photo, attorney Michael Avenatti arrives at federal court in New York to enter a plea to an indictment charging him with trying to extort up to $25 million from Nike. Avenatti, who awaits a June 2020 sentencing after he was convicted of trying to extort $25 million from the sportswear giant, was temporarily freed from a federal jail in New York City due to concerns that his medical history will make him more susceptible to coronavirus. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File

Former California lawyer Michael Avenatti has been sentenced to 2.5 years in prison for attempting to extort up to $25 million from Nike. 

Per Jim Mustian and Larry Neumeister of the Associated Press, U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe announced Avenatti's punishment at a sentencing hearing on Wednesday. 

Avenatti was found guilty on three counts of transmission of interstate communications with intent to extort, attempted extortion and honest services wire fraud in February 2020. 

He was originally indicted and charged in March 2019, shortly after posting a tweet threatening to "disclose a major high school/college basketball scandal perpetrated by @Nike that we have uncovered." 

Avenatti's tweet also stated, "This criminal conduct reaches the highest levels of Nike and involves some of the biggest names in college basketball."

Avenatti had told Nike he would go public with his claims if it didn't pay a youth basketball coach he represented $1.5 million and himself and another attorney $12 million, plus guarantee $15 to $25 million in payments for an internal investigation.

According to Mustian and Neumeister, Nike's lawyers said in a victim impact statement that Avenatti "did considerable harm to the company" by trying to connect it to the pay-for-play corruption scandal involving Adidas-sponsored basketball programs. 

During the sentencing hearing, Gardephe told Avenatti that he "hijacked his client's claims, and he used those claims to further his own agenda, which was to extort millions of dollars from Nike for himself.''