Federal prosecutors in Manhattan on Monday announced charges against attorney Michael Avenatti, the former counsel for adult film star Stormy Daniels. Avenatti is accused of trying to extort Nike for more than $20 million by threatening to hold a press conference revealing alleged misconduct by their employees. The Department of Justice is holding a press conference to discuss the case at 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time.
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Speaking at the press conference will be Southern District of New York U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman and William F. Sweeney, the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Avenatti is facing charges of Conspiracy to Commit Interstate Communications with Intent to Extort, Conspiracy to Commit Extortion, Transmission of Interstate Communications with Intent to Extort, and Extortion.
According to the complaint, Avenatti allegedly told Nike he represented a coach whose team had a contract with Nike in the past, but it was not renewed. The coach said he had information that “one or more Nike employees had authorized or funded payments to the families of top high school basketball players and/or their families and attempted to conceal those payments,” Avenatti allegedly told Nike. The complaint says that Avenatti named three players, and claimed to know of others.
Avenatti allegedly first spoke to Nike about this on March 19, soon before the annual NCAA college basketball tournament was about to start. Avenatti allegedly said he timed this on purpose for this reason, and because Nike’s quarterly earnings call was scheduled for March 21.
The complaint says that Avenatti “threatened to hold a press conference on the eve of Nike’s quarterly earnings call … at which he would announce allegations of misconduct by employees of Nike.” The complaint states that Avenatti said he’d call off the press conference if Nike paid $1.5 million to a client of his who had damaging information, and if the company then hired Avenatti to conduct an “internal investigation.” For that investigation, which Nike didn’t want, Avenatti and another individual allegedly wanted to be paid between $15 and $25 million. Alternatively, Avenatti allegedly suggested, Nike could pay $22.5 million to buy Avenatti’s silence, the complaint says.
[Image via Spencer Platt/Getty Images]