A New York judge sentenced disgraced lawyer Michael Avenatti to 30 months in prison Thursday for attempting to extort Nike of up to $25 million.
The case is one of several Avenatti is currently involved in. While he was addressing the court prior to the judge’s sentence, Avenatti reportedly cried. Judge Paul Gardephe of the Southern District of New York ripped the lawyer during his 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 said, according to The Washington Examiner. “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.”
Last month, the prosecutorial team led by Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman argued that Avenatti deserved a “very substantial” prison sentence for his crime.
“The defendant, a prominent attorney and media personality with a large public following, betrayed his client and sought to enrich himself by weaponizing his public profile in an attempt to extort a publicly-traded company out of tens of millions of dollars. This was an egregious abuse of trust, and it warrants real and serious punishment,” the prosecutors wrote in a court filing.
Avenatti’s defense team pleaded with the judge for leniency in the case, arguing that Avenatti had faced enough public humiliation during the case already.
“Avenatti’s epic fall and public shaming has played out in front of the entire world. The Court may take judicial notice of this fact, as Avenatti’s cataclysmic fall has been well-documented. He is openly mocked by the former President of the United States and his preferred media outlets, to the glee of millions of the former President’s followers and supporters,” the attorneys wrote.
“He cannot go anywhere in public without inducing and subjecting himself to vitriolic comments and abuse. These circumstances alone would deter anyone in Avenatti’s shoes from engaging in similar conduct,” they said.
Avenatti was found guilty of the extortion scheme in February. Berman said at the time: “As alleged, Avenatti used illegal and extortionate threats for the purpose of obtaining millions of dollars in payments from a public company. Calling this anticipated payout a retainer or a settlement doesn’t change what it was – a shakedown. 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, and they will be held responsible for their conduct.”
Avenatti is still facing two more criminal trials, one for a slew of fraud allegations in California and another for allegedly stealing a book advance from his former client, adult film actress Stormy Daniels.