HE TRIED IT!
Michael Avenatti, a high-profile attorney and critic of President Trump, was arrested in New York on Monday and charged in what prosecutors called a brazen bid to extort millions of dollars from Nike by threatening to damage the company’s image.
Simultaneously, federal prosecutors in Los Angeles filed separate charges accusing Avenatti of wire fraud and bank fraud, alleging that he took a client’s settlement money and used it to cover costs related to Avenatti’s coffee shop business and other personal expenses. Avenatti is accused of concealing from the client where the money was.
FBI officials said Avenatti, 48, was arrested in Manhattan on Monday as he arrived at the offices of Boies Schiller, the law firm representing Nike. He had gone there for a meeting about his demands, officials said. Monday evening, a federal magistrate judge in New York ordered Avenatti released on $300,000 bond.
Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, said that Avenatti dressed up the alleged demands as legal negotiations but that he still broke the law.
“A suit and tie doesn’t mask the fact that, at its core, this was an old-fashioned shakedown,” Berman said. “When lawyers use their law licenses as weapons, as a guise to extort payments for themselves, they are no longer acting as attorneys. They are acting as criminals.”
Over the course of nine months, Avenatti styled himself as Trump’s chief legal adversary and threatened to challenge the president as a Democrat in the 2020 election. His brashness on Twitter and cable TV, where he taunted Trump and Trump’s lawyers, won support from some liberals.
Avenatti defended his approach amid criticism from some in the legal and political worlds. “We’ve been aggressive, but I also think we’ve been strategic and thoughtful, and without that approach, we wouldn’t be where we are now. We’ve created a situation where the other side continues to make mistake after mistake,” he told The Washington Post in May.
Avenatti courted controversy by representing Julie Swetnick, one of the women who accused now-Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh of misconduct. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) later claimed that Avenatti and Swetnick made “materially false” statements to his panel and referred them to the Justice Department.
Based in Newport Beach, Calif., Avenatti was known for his success in a handful of large class-action lawsuits, financial disputes with partners at his former law firm, and allegedly dubious business practices involving his onetime ownership stake in Tully’s, a now-defunct Seattle-based coffee chain. Avenatti has denied wrongdoing in the latter two cases.
While representing Daniels, he brought multiple actions against the president and his former attorney Michael Cohen, among others. One suit accused Trump of defamation after the president suggested Daniels was perpetrating a “con job” when she said she was threatened not to speak about their alleged affair. A federal judge dismissed the suit in October.
In November, Avenatti was arrested in Los Angeles on suspicion of domestic violence. Prosecutors declined to charge him.