“I am nervous. I’m concerned. I’m scared.”
Celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti faces federal charges of extortion, bank fraud, and wire fraud in New York and California. He left jail on Monday after posting a $300,000 bond.
Avenatti almost immediately sat down with CBS News to explain his side of the story. He claims he never tried to extort Nike, but admits he’s “nervous” and scared” at the thought of spending the rest of his life in prison.
The federal prosecutors wrote in documents that Avenatti and a client claimed “they had evidence that Nike had funneled money to recruits in exchange for their commitments to college teams sponsored by Nike and that they would release them in order to damage Nike’s reputation and market capitalization unless Nike paid them between $15 and $25 million.” The document stated the alleged crime took place this month.
The complaint states that Avenatti and his co-conspirator met with Nike’s attorneys where they “threatened to release damaging information” if Nike “did not agree to make multi-million dollar payments to them, as well as an additional $1.5 million payment to a client Avenatti claimed to represent.”
Southern District of New York US Attorney Geoffrey Berman maintained that Avenatti didn’t act like a lawyer with Nike and described the scheme as “an old-fashioned shakedown.”
In California, federal prosecutors accused Avenatti of embezzling money from a client “to pay his own expenses and debts — as well as those of his coffee business and law firm — and also defrauded a bank by using phony tax returns to obtain millions of dollars in loans.”
Correspondent Jericka Duncan flat out asked Avenatti if he tried to extort Nike:
“No, and any suggestion is absolutely absurd. Nike knew, from the very first moment that I had any contact with Nike, that I was insisting that the truth about what Nike had done be disclosed to federal prosecutors and investigators,” he responded.
“What is the truth?”
“The truth is, for years Nike and its executives have been funneling payments to amateur players, high school players and to their handlers and family members in an effort to get them to go to colleges that were Nike colleges and ultimately hopefully to the NBA so they can sign a shoe deal with Nike,” Avenatti said.
Duncan mentioned the complaint against Avenatti and the allegations he tried to extort Nike for over $20 million. He did not “get into specifics of this,” but insisted the complaint is not framed accurately:
It’s just not accurate. And in fact, from the very first moment that we had any meeting with Nike, we made it clear that under no circumstances would we participate in anything that did not require full disclosure to investigators and the federal government.”
Avenatti brushed aside the charges in California because the client in the complaint “is currently on felony probation in California.” He noted the client has a long “criminal background and rap sheet associated with his conduct.” He appeared disgusted the feds didn’t mention this in the complaint, but honestly, why would they!? It has nothing to do with Avenatti’s alleged criminal behavior.
When Duncan asked Avenatti about prison, we finally see the arrogant shell around him breakdown just a little:
“You’re facing — if convicted on all of these charges — up to the rest of your life in prison. Are you nervous?” Duncan asked.
“Well, of course I’m nervous,” Avenatti responded.
“Are you scared? Are you concerned? I mean, tell us I guess as someone who, again, has a history of representing people and now you’re on the other side facing some serious charges,” Duncan said.
“I am nervous. I’m concerned. I’m scared,” Avenatti said.
“But you also seem confident.”
“I am confident because I believe the facts are on my side,” Avenatti said.
Avenatti should be nervous and scared. While he showcases confidence and smugness, anyone who watched the news conferences with the feds in California and New York know that they have the same confidence in their cases against him.DONATE
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