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Prosecutors Make Major Moves In Nike Extortion Criminal Case Involving Avenatti
Attorney Michael Avenatti, representing some accusers of singer R. Kelly, details recent federal charges against the artist during a news conference at the Four Seasons on July 15, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. Kelly has been charged with multiple sex crimes involving four women, three of whom were underage at the time of the alleged encounters.
Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

Federal prosecutors dropped both criminal conspiracy charges against left-wing celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti on Wednesday which alleged that Avenatti had conspired to extort Nike; however, prosecutors did slap Avenatti with a new criminal charge.

“The refreshed indictment returned Wednesday in Manhattan federal court adds an honest services wire fraud charge,” The Associated Press reported. “Avenatti has pleaded not guilty to charges he committed extortion by threatening to publicly reveal dirty dealings by Nike in college athletics if he wasn’t paid up to $25 million.”

In a tweet, Avenatti wrote: “I am extremely pleased that the two counts alleging I engaged in a conspiracy against Nike have just been dismissed by Trump’s DOJ. I expect to be fully exonerated when it is all said and done.”

However, the development does not mean that Avenatti is out of the woods as he still faces federal charges in Los Angeles and New York alleging that he ripped Stormy Daniels off on proceeds she earned from her book.

“Federal prosecutors in New York City say Avenatti used a doctored document to divert about $300,000 that Daniels was supposed to get from a book deal, then used the money for personal and business expenses. Only half of that money was paid back,” The Associated Press reported in May. “Daniels isn’t named in the court filing, but the details of the case, including the date her book was released, make it clear that she is the client involved.”

Avenatti responded to the allegations at the time by writing on Twitter, “No monies relating to Ms. Daniels were ever misappropriated or mishandled. She received millions of dollars worth of legal services and we spent huge sums in expenses. She directly paid only $100.00 for all that she received. I look forward to a jury hearing the evidence.”

Avenatti also still potentially faces problems from last year when the Senate Judiciary Committee made multiple criminal refers for him to the U.S. Department of Justice.

On October 25, 2018, the Senate Judiciary Committee released the following statement:

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley today referred Julie Swetnick and her attorney Michael Avenatti to the Justice Department for criminal investigation relating to a potential conspiracy to provide materially false statements to Congress and obstruct a congressional committee investigation, three separate crimes, in the course of considering Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court of the United States.

While the Committee was in the middle of its extensive investigation of the late-breaking sexual-assault allegations made by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford against Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Avenatti publicized his client’s allegations of drug- and alcohol-fueled gang rapes in the 1980s. The obvious, subsequent contradictions along with the suspicious timing of the allegations necessitate a criminal investigation by the Justice Department.

Grassley referred Swetnick and Avenatti for investigation in a letter sent today to the Attorney General of the United States and the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The letter notes potential violations of 18 U.S.C. §§ 371, 1001 and 1505, which respectively define the federal criminal offenses of conspiracy, false statements and obstruction of Congress. The referral seeks further investigation only, and is not intended to be an allegation of a crime.

The referral methodically details the issues with Swetnick’s allegations as relayed by Avenatti, the immediate diversion of committee resources to investigate those allegations, the subsequent contradictions by both Swetnick and Avenatti, the lack of substantiating or corroborating evidence, and the overarching and serious credibility problems pervading the presentation of these allegations.

Swetnick made her allegations in a sworn statement to the committee on September 26. In an October 1 interview with NBC News, however, Swetnick specifically and explicitly back-tracked or contradicted key parts of her sworn statement on these and other allegations. In subsequent interviews, Avenatti likewise cast serious doubt on or contradicted the allegations while insisting that he had thoroughly vetted his client.

The very next day, the committee made a second criminal refer for Avenatti, writing: “Avenatti submitted an anonymous declaration on October 2, 2018, purporting to corroborate allegations raised by Julie Swetnick. However, according to yesterday’s news report, the declarant denied making the key allegations, saying that Avenatti ‘twisted [her] words.'”

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