Lawyer Michael Avenatti, who brought serious allegations against former President Donald Trump in 2018, cried on Thursday as he was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison for attempting to extort Nike out of $22.5 million, the Washington Examiner reported.
Avenatti was found guilty of extortion and wire fraud in the scheme to get Nike to pay him millions of dollars to avoid public accusations of corruption in various basketball programs it sponsored. The accusations were part of a case Avenatti took against Nike by basketball coaches in the program, but the coaches had nothing to do with the extortion.
Judge Paul Gardephe of the Southern District of New York said at the sentencing: “Mr. Avenatti’s conduct was outrageous. He hijacked his client’s claims, and he used those claims to further his own agenda — which was to extort millions of dollars from Nike to enrich himself.”
Gardephe added: “Mr. Avenatti had become drunk on the power of his platform, or what he perceived the power of his platform to be. He had become someone who operated as if the laws and rules that apply to everyone else didn’t apply to him.”
Avenatti gave a tearful speech at his sentencing, saying, “When I was a child I dreamed about becoming a lawyer … Fighting for the little guy against the Goliaths. 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’ve learned that all the fame, notoriety, and money in the world is meaningless,” the disgraced attorney added. “TV and Twitter, Your Honor, mean nothing. Everyone wants to ride in the limo with you, but few want to ride with you on the bus.”
Avenatti was likely referring to the intense media attention he received when he accused Trump of having an affair with adult film actress Stormy Daniels and paying her off prior to his 2016 presidential campaign.
Trump lawyer Michael Cohen said at the time that he paid Daniels with his own money, and a two-year investigation into Trump’s finances has not yielded any information that the payment came from Trump directly, which would have likely amounted to a campaign finance violation.
Avenatti garnered a huge Twitter following in the wake of the accusations, however, and even said before he was charged with extorting Nike that he might run in the 2020 primary against Trump.
Avenatti’s family supports him
Avenatti also said, “I am truly sorry for all of the pain that I have caused to Mr. Franklin and others. I am deeply humbled before you today. Despite the deep shame and remorse, I still feel positive because I know I can do better … I am forever grateful for the love and support of my family. They have showed me this love even when I least deserved it.”
Avenatti will also serve three years of probation after his 30 months in jail.
His star has clearly fallen since 2018. Hopefully, Avenatti, the media, and the public have learned a valuable lesson: It doesn’t pay to level false accusations against others, no matter how much fame it might bring.