Michael Avenatti, the brazen lawyer who became the main enemy of then-President Donald Trump, was sentenced to 30 months in prison Thursday for a brazen botched plan to extort up to $ 25 million from sportswear giant Nike.
This sentence was much shorter than the nine years that marked the end of state guidelines for conviction given his conduct.
“Mr. Avenatti’s behavior was outrageous,” said Judge Paul Gardgephe before the Manhattan District Court, where he also sentenced Avenatti to three years of supervised release.
“He hijacked his client’s claims and used them to advance his own agenda of extorting millions of dollars from Nike for himself.”
“He really betrayed his client,” said Gardephe. “Mr. Avenatti was drunk from the power of his platform or what he perceived of the power of his platform.”
But Gardephe said Avenatti deserves a lighter sentence than that recommended by the federal government because: “Mr Avenatti has expressed grave remorse today, in my opinion.
The judge also cited the brutal conditions under which he was held in a federal prison in Manhattan for several months after his arrest in 2019.
Gardephe, in substantiating the lower-than-recommended verdict, also pointed out that federal prosecutors did not criminally indict senior attorney Mark Geragos, who prosecutors said was involved with Avenatti in the shakedown.
Avenatti, who began to cry during a testimony before the judge before he was sentenced, said, “I am really sorry for all the pain I have caused Mr. Franklin and others.”
That was referring to Avenatti’s amateur basketball coach client Gary Franklin, whom he exploited in his daring attempt to get paid direct by Nike in his shakedown plan.
“I alone have ruined my career, my relationships and my life. And there is no doubt that I have to pay,” the 50-year-old Avenatti told Gardephe.
At some point, Avenatti broke down and took a few moments to calm himself down as he talked about the effects his behavior had on his three children.
Franklin, who kept Avenatti as his attorney, had alleged corruption by Nike in alleged payments to amateur basketball players.
Avenatti then used that claim in early 2019 to demand not only a deal with Franklin, but also a lucrative advisory agreement from Nike for him and Geragos to avoid a press conference at which he would make Franklin’s claims.
Avenatti warned Nike’s attorney that the allegations “could reduce your client’s market capitalization by $ 10 billion”.
“I don’t play around with it and I don’t play any more,” Avenatti told Nike lawyers shortly before his arrest.
Avenatti’s anger is not over after this conviction, in which the prosecutor had asked for a prison sentence of around eight years and in which the defense attorneys only detained him for six months.
The California attorney faces two other federal criminal cases pending.
Next week in California, Avenatti will begin a trial on a series of charges where prosecutors said he defrauded customers of millions of dollars. One of these clients was a mentally ill paraplegic.
Next year, Avenatti is due to be tried in Manhattan federal court for allegedly defrauding another fallen customer, porn star Storm Daniels, for $ 300,000 in proceeds for a book she wrote.
Avenatti gained widespread fame and disgrace for his bombastic portrayal of Daniels, who says she once had sex with Trump before he ran for president.
Avenatti has denied any criminal misconduct.
During his conviction on Thursday, Avenatti noted that as a child, while other children dreamed of becoming professional athletes, said, “I dreamed of becoming a lawyer.
“About doing good and seeking and achieving justice.”
“I did just that for years, but then I got lost. I gave away my own values, my friends, my family and myself,” he said.
“I gave away my job. I was driven by the things that don’t matter in life. For the past two years, Your Honor, I’ve been thinking why this had to happen,” said Avenatti. “I’ve learned that all the fame, the motoring of money in the world is meaningless.”
Avenatti said that while most people want their children to be proud of their fathers, in the case of his own three children, “I want them to be ashamed of him”.
“Because if you’re ashamed, it means your moral compass is exactly what it should be,” he said.
US Assistant Attorney Matthew Podolsky told Gardephe that Avenatti had “a deep lack of remorse” for his behavior.
“It’s about taking advantage of people and abusing power and trust,” said Podolsky.
“He saw Mr. Franklin as a way to get rich, to make Mr. Avenatti rich.”
But Avenatti’s attorney Perry pleaded forbearance, saying, “He had an epic fall, he was publicly shamed.”
Perry said that while Avenatti pursued and then achieved a legal career, “really wanted to be the David fighting the Goliath”.
But she remarked, “He’s certainly lost and he knows it.”
“I can tell you … he’s a completely humble man who got beaten up by himself,” said Perry.
Perry also advocated a shorter term because Avenatti and Geragos were treated differently.
“It is impossible to distinguish between the conduct of Mr. Avenatti … and that of Mark Geragos, whom they did not charge at all,” said lawyer Danya Perry.
“The Nike lawyers, on the other hand, believed Mr Geragos was a full participant and felt as threatened and blackmailed by him as they were by Mr Avenatti.”