MICHAEL Avenatti cried as he was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison for trying to extort Nike after "becoming drunk on power."
Stormy Daniel's former lawyer appeared in federal court on Thursday more than a year after a jury convicted him.
Avenatti was convicted on charges that he tried to extort up to $25 million from the sportswear giant when he represented a Los Angeles youth basketball league organizer upset Nike had ended its league sponsorship.
The celebrity lawyer cried as he told the court: "I am truly sorry for all of the pain I caused to Mr. Franklin and others."
U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe called Avenatti’s conduct "outrageous", saying he "had become drunk on the power of his platform, or what he perceived the power of his platform to be."
Avenatti, the judge added, "had become someone who operated as if the laws and the rules that applied to everyone else didn’t apply to him."
Avenatti, 50, was all but unknown until two years ago when he began representing porn star Daniels in lawsuits against Donald Trump.
But criminal fraud charges on two coasts disrupted Avenatti’s rapid ascent to fame.
He now faces the start of a fraud trial next week in California and a separate trial next year in Manhattan, where he is charged with cheating Daniels out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
California prosecutors said Avenatti was enjoying a $200,000-a-month lifestyle while cheating clients out of millions of dollars and failing to pay hundreds of thousands to the Internal Revenue Service.
Charges alleging he cheated Daniels out of proceeds from a book deal followed weeks later. Avenatti pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Avenatti, said on Thursday: "I dreamed about becoming a lawyer. About becoming a trial lawyer. About doing good, and about pursuing and achieving justice.”
"For years I did just that, but then I lost my way. I betrayed my own values, my friends, my family and myself.
“I betrayed my profession. I became driven by the things that don’t matter in life.
"Over the past two years, your honor, I have thought to myself, why did this need to happen. I’ve learned that all the fame, money notoriety in the world is meaningless."
He said he wants his three children to be "ashamed" of him adding: "Because if they’re ashamed, it means their moral compass is exactly what it should be."
On Tuesday, Gardephe rejected a request by Avenatti’s lawyers to toss out his conviction in the Nike case on attempted extortion and honest services wire fraud charges.
The judge wrote that evidence showed that Avenatti "devised an approach to Nike that was designed to enrich himself" rather than address his client’s objectives.
In written sentencing arguments, prosecutors said Avenatti tried to enrich himself by "weaponizing his public profile" to try to force Nike to submit to his demands.
In a victim-impact statement, Nike’s lawyers said Avenatti did considerable harm to the company by falsely trying to link it to a scandal in which bribes were paid to the families of NBA-bound college basketball players to steer them to powerhouse programs.
An employee of Adidas, a Nike competitor, was convicted in that prosecution.
The lawyers said Avenatti threatened to do billions of dollars of damage to Nike and then falsely tweeted that criminal conduct at Nike reached the "highest levels."
Avenatti’s former client, Gary Franklin Jr., said in a statement submitted by prosecutors that Avenatti’s action had "devastated me financially, professionally, and emotionally."
Avenatti’s lawyers said their client had suffered enough, citing enormous public shame and a difficult stint in jail last year that ended after lawyers said he was particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus.
The lawyers wrote: "Avenatti’s epic fall and public shaming has played out in front of the entire world. The Court may take judicial notice of this fact, as Avenatti’s cataclysmic fall has been well-documented."
Although prosecutors asked Gardephe to impose a $1 million restitution order to help cover Nike’s legal expenses, Avenatti’s attorneys cited the lack of financial losses as a reason for leniency.
"There was no financial loss to any victims so there is no restitution in this case," they wrote. "The fact that a white collar federal criminal case was brought despite this fact is itself an important mitigating factor."
Daniels said a tryst with Trump a decade earlier resulted in her being paid $130,000 by Trump’s personal lawyer in 2016 to stay silent. Trump denied the affair.
Avenatti explored running against Trump in 2020, boasting that he would “have no problem raising money.”
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