The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that the alleged co-conspirator in the alleged Michael Avenatti fraud scheme is CNN legal analyst Mark Geragos, who is also Jussie Smollett's lawyer.
"The co-conspirator in that matter is attorney Mark Geragos, two people familiar with the matter said," the Journal reported. "According to the complaint filed in New York, Mr. Avenatti and Mr. Geragos, the alleged co-conspirator, met with lawyers for Nike in New York on March 19 and threatened to release damaging information unless the company agreed to pay the two lawyers millions of dollars and another $1.5 million to the client Avenatti claimed to represent."
On CNN's website, Geragos is listed as "a legal analyst for CNN."
Geragos recently appeared on CNN, where he defended Smollett after Smollett was charged with 16 felony counts. At the time, he claimed that Smollett was the victim of a "media gang bang."
"They're bringing 16 counts. They're bringing 16 counts because they parsed out two statements," Geragos said. "I defy you to find something like that. He was not suspended. They have not talked to one person at Fox who has said he was dissatisfied with his money. They have not interviewed one person connected with the show 'Empire' who says he was dissatisfied with his money."
"What is happening here is frankly a media gang bang of this guy of unprecedented proportions and that's the reason I got into this," Geragos continued. "I've never seen a media pendulum swing more quickly and more viciously and rob somebody of their presumption of innocence like this case. It's startling the way people assume that he's guilty."
Geragos has also represented former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, Michael Jackson, and Chris Brown.
Avenatti, who was arrested on Monday, faces federal charges in both New York and in California for an alleged bank and wire fraud.
"A lawyer has a basic duty not to steal from his client," United States Attorney Nick Hanna said. "Mr. Avenatti is facing serious criminal charges alleging he misappropriated client trust funds for his personal use and he defrauded a bank by submitting phony tax returns in order to obtain millions of dollars in loans."
"Professionals, including attorneys, who create elaborate schemes that have no purpose other than to mislead others and defraud both their clients and federally insured financial institutions, run the very high risk of prosecution," said Special Agent in Charge Ryan Korner of IRS-Criminal Investigation. "The criminal complaint unsealed today shows a pattern of selfish behavior that paints Mr. Avenatti as a lawyer who only represents his own self-interests."
If convicted, Avenatti faces up to 50 years in federal prison, according to the Department of Justice.
Avenatti rose to fame when he represented porn star Stormy Daniels, which led to CNN and MSNBC featuring him on their networks over 200 times.
Daniels responded to Avenatti's arrest in a statement, saying: "Knowing what I know now about Michael Avenatti, I am saddened but not shocked by news reports that he has been criminally charged today. I made the decision more than a month ago to terminate Michael’s services after discovering that he had dealt with me extremely dishonestly and there will be more announcements to come. I ask that the media respect my decision to withhold further public comment regarding Mr. Avenatti at this time."
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