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.''