Michael Avenatti tearfully mourns loss of pardon on New York conviction
A New York federal judge on Thursday sentenced a tearful Michael Avenatti to two and a half years in prison for attempting to extort large sums of money from sports brand Nike. The disgraced Newport Beach-based lawyer and former Trump antagonist received a report date in September as he returned to California for another criminal trial next week in Orange County.
“Me and I alone have destroyed my career, my relationships, my life and there is no doubt that I deserve to pay, that I have paid and that I will pay an extra price for what I have done,” said Avenatti to U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe in a statement. two-hour in-person conviction broadcast on a public telephone line. “Television and Twitter, your honor, mean nothing. Everyone wants to get in a limo with you, but very few are willing to sit next to you on the bus. Even less, your honor, are ready to answer your calls from prison.
Avenatti faced 108 to 135 months in prison under sentencing guidelines, but Gardephe imposed a lesser sentence, citing Avenatti’s stint in “horrific” prison conditions, including solitary confinement cell phone, and the fact that prominent lawyer Mark Geragos was also involved in the Nike program but never charged. Gardephe called Geragos a “central figure in criminal conduct”.
But Avenatti’s lawyers had asked for six months in jail, and Gardephe made it clear that Avenatti’s “scandalous” conduct deserved a longer sentence.
“He hijacked his client’s claims and he used those claims to advance his own agenda,” Gardephe said.
“Everyone wants to get in a limo with you, but very few are willing to sit next to you on the bus. Even less, your honor, are ready to answer your calls from prison. —Michael Avenatti
Avenatti was arrested on March 25, 2019 for his involvement in what New York prosecutors described as a $ 25 million shakedown attempt against Nike. The case came amid a major California investigation into numerous financial crimes, including theft of money from customers and bankruptcy court fraud. Authorities here had to expedite search warrants and an early indictment document when authorities in New York informed them of Avenatti’s impending arrest. They then unveiled an indictment of 36 counts before a grand jury.
In the Nike case, Avenatti threatened to hold a press conference announcing that the company was illegally paying players if it did not receive millions of dollars, including for an internal investigation it would lead. Nike’s attorneys taped their meeting with Avenatti, and Gardephe recited some of Avenatti’s most damning comments during that meeting on Thursday, including: “Have you ever held your client’s balls in your hands … This is going to be a major fucking scandal. “
Gardephe acknowledged the stakes in the upcoming trial in Orange County, calling it “very serious”. Indeed, Avenatti could face an additional decade in prison if found guilty in the case. He also has an ongoing lawsuit in a New York City case alleging he stole money for a book from the former client who propelled him to fame, pornstar Stormy Daniels.
In his comments to the judge on Monday, Avenatti recounted his childhood dream of becoming a lawyer, and he cried as he recounted his downfall.
“Other kids dreamed of becoming athletes… but I dreamed of becoming a lawyer, becoming a litigator, doing good and suing and getting justice, fighting for the little guy against the Goliaths,” said Avenatti. “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 job. I have become motivated by the things that don’t matter in life.
Avenatti told the judge he was grateful for his family’s support, but hoped his children would be ashamed of him “because if they are ashamed, that means their moral compass is exactly where it should be. “.
Avenatti is due to report to prison on September 15. At the request of his attorney, the court will recommend that he be placed in the federal facility in Sheridan, Oregon, which is the closest medium security prison to southern California.
Jury selection in his Orange County trial is scheduled to begin July 13, with opening statements scheduled for July 20.
Meghann M. Cuniff is a reporter in Southern California. It‘on Twitter @meghannuniff.
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