NEW YORK — A tearful, repentant Michael Avenatti, the brash lawyer who once represented Stormy Daniels in lawsuits against President Donald Trump, was sentenced Thursday to two-and-a-half years in prison for trying to extort up to $25 million from Nike by threatening the company with bad publicity.
Avenatti, 50, rose to prominence by sparring publicly with Trump, but criminal fraud charges on two coasts disrupted his rapid ascent. He was convicted last year of attempted extortion and other charges in connection with his representation of a Los Angeles youth basketball league organizer who was upset that Nike had ended its league sponsorship.
U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe called Avenatti’s conduct “outrageous,” saying he “hijacked his client’s claims” and “used those claims to further his own agenda, which was to extort millions of dollars from Nike for himself.”
Avenatti, the judge added, “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 the rules that applied to everyone else didn’t apply to him.”
Before the judge spoke, Avenatti delivered emotional remarks, sometimes choking up and speaking through tears. “I and I alone have destroyed my career, my relationships and my life,” he said.
“Your honor, I’ve learned that all the fame, notoriety and money in the world is meaningless. TV and Twitter, your honor, mean nothing,” he said.
He ended his statement by saying he expects his three children, including two teenage daughters who wrote letters to the judge, to be ashamed of him.
“Because if they are ashamed, it means their moral compass is exactly where it should be,” he said.
As he left the courthouse in the rain, he stopped briefly before a set of microphones while his lawyer, Danya Perry, told reporters, “A new Michael Avenatti is deeply humbled as a result of this experience.”