Tears of alleged contrition replaced his trademark swagger Thursday as attorney Michael Avenatti was sentenced to prison for extorting Nike.
“I alone have destroyed my career, my relationships and my life. And there is no doubt I need to pay,” Avenatti, 50, said amid tears before federal court Judge Paul Gardephe sentenced him to 30 months behind bars, according to CNBC.
Avenatti rose to media darling status by trashing then-President Donald Trump while representing porn star Stormy Daniels in her lawsuits against Trump.
In 2019, he took up the case of Gary Franklin, who ran a California youth basketball league formerly sponsored by Nike and who was at odds with the company, according to Courthouse News Service.
But Avenatti tried to cut a deal for himself, telling Nike that he would use what was then his star power to publicly humiliate the company if he did not get up to $25 million.
Instead, he was arrested.
“Mr. Avenatti had become drunk on the power of his platform, or what he perceived the power of his platform to be,” Gardephe said Thursday in sentencing Avenatti.
“Mr. Avenatti’s conduct was outrageous,” he said, adding that the lawyer “outright betrayed his client.”
“He hijacked his client’s claims, and he used him to further his own agenda, which was to extort Nike millions of dollars for himself.”
Avenatti was convicted last year.
Nike’s issued a terse statement: “The verdict and sentence speak for themselves.”
In his statement, Avenatti portrayed himself as an idealist gone astray.
“I dreamed about becoming a lawyer. About becoming a trial lawyer. About doing good, and about pursuing and achieving justice,” he said.
“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,” he said. “I’ve learned that all the fame, money notoriety in the world is meaningless.”
He said his children should be ashamed of him.
“Because if they’re ashamed, it means their moral compass is exactly what it should be.”
Avenatti is not yet out of the legal woods. He still faces charges of defrauding his clients, including Daniels.
In pitching for a tougher sentence, Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Podolsky said Avenatti had a “profound lack of remorse” for his conduct.
“It’s about taking advantage of people and abuse of power and trust,” Podolsky said. “He saw Mr. Franklin as a way to get rich, to get Mr. Avenatti rich.”
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