Attorney Michael Avenatti speaks after President Donald Trump's longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen exits Manhattan Federal Court in New York City on December 12, 2018. Avenatti was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison Thursday. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
July 8 (UPI) -- A federal judge on Thursday sentenced attorney Michael Avenatti to 2 1/2 years in prison for his attempt to extort more than $20 million from Nike.
U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe of the Southern District of New York described Avenatti's behavior as "outrageous" during the sentencing hearing, according to CNN.
"Mr. Avenatti had become drunk on the power of his platform, or what he perceived his platform to be."
A jury convicted Avenatti, 50, of three counts in February 2020 after he threatened to release damaging information about Nike if the company didn't pay $1.5 million to a client who had the information. He also said Nike must retain him and another person for between $15 million and $25 million to conduct an internal investigation.
"I betrayed my own values, my friends, my family and myself," Avenatti told the judge Thursday. "I, and I alone, have destroyed my career, my relationships, my life."
Police arrested Avenatti in March 2019, hours after he tweeted about a news conference he planned to hold to release the damaging information.
Amateur basketball coach Gary Franklin hired Avenatti to represent him, making allegations that Nike asked him to make secret cash payments to the families of good players, a violation of NCAA rules. He said he wanted to stop the alleged payments and corruption.
Prosecutors asked the judge for a sentence of eight years, while defense attorneys sought a six-month imprisonment.
Avenatti faces two other trials, one in Manhattan in which adult film star Stormy Daniels accused him of stealing $300,000 from her. He pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Avenatti represented Daniels amid a scandal in which former President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, paid her $130,000 to keep quiet about an affair she said she had with Trump after he married Melania Trump. The scandal resulted in campaign finance convictions for Cohen because he made the hush-money payment in the days leading up to the 2016 presidential election.
In another case, in Los Angeles, a federal grand jury indicted him on 36 counts of fraud, perjury, failure to pay taxes, embezzlement and other financial crimes for allegedly stealing millions from five clients through a group of shell companies and bank accounts.