Supreme Court won’t hear Michael Avenatti appeal over Nike extortion

The Supreme Court on Tuesday declined disgraced lawyer Michael Avenatti’s request to consider whether his conviction for plotting to extort Nike should be thrown out.

Avenatti, who rose to fame for representing porn actress Stormy Daniels in her case against former President Trump, was found guilty of attempting to extort up to $25 million from Nike and sentenced to two and a half years in prison.

Prosecutors claimed at trial that the high-profile lawyer, who was representing an amateur basketball coach, purported to have evidence that Nike was paying non-professional players and demanded a settlement or risk a news conference on the eve of the company’s quarterly earnings call.

He petitioned the Supreme Court in February after a federal appeals court unanimously refused to overturn his conviction on the premise that the evidence didn’t support it and that jurors were wrongly instructed about whether he defrauded Nike out of “honest services.”

Avenatti’s petition asked the high court whether the law under which he was convicted for honest services fraud is too vague, and therefore void, and whether an attorney’s demand for settlement makes them liable to criminal extortion.

The court’s brief order noted that Justice Brett Kavanaugh recused himself from considering Avenatti’s petition. Kavanaugh did not provide a rationale, which two of the nine justices now do. Avenatti had represented a woman who brought claims of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearings. Kavanaugh denies the allegations.

In his petition to the high court, the disgraced lawyer argued that the Second Circuit’s opinion unlawfully expands “what was at most attorney misconduct remedially in a state bar disciplinary proceeding into a spate of federal crimes.”

“This Court should once again gold that the federal criminal code is not so boundless,” the petition reads.

The Justice Department countered that Avenatti’s counsel did not raise the issue of vagueness in the appeals court and his other arguments lacked merit.

“Petitioner did not threaten to sue a public official based on false affidavits, nor did he face a civil RICO suit for litigation conduct in a business dispute. Indeed the exertion charges in this case were not premised on petitioner’s ’litigation conduct’ at all,” U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar wrote.

“Instead, those charges were based on petitioner’s demand — completely separate from his reasonable request for compensation for his client — that Nike hire him to conduct an internal investigation,” Prelogar said.

Avenatti was separately convicted of stealing book proceeds from Daniels and sentenced to 14 years in prison for stealing other clients’ settlement funds and failing to pay taxes.

The Associated Press contributed.

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