Attorney Michael Avenatti said Wednesday he’s “nervous” and “scared” about the prospect of going to prison for the rest of his life, but is “confident” he will be exonerated on charges he tried to extort Nike for tens of millions of dollars and other financial crimes.
In an interview that aired Wednesday on “CBS This Morning,” the celebrity attorney who rose to prominence as an antagonist of President Donald Trump maintained his innocence, asserting that his name will eventually be cleared because “the facts are on my side.”
Story Continued Below
Federal authorities in New York on Monday arrested Avenatti, accusing him of trying to extract $20 million from the sportswear giant by threatening to use his newfound celebrity to unleash reputational damage and financial harm on the company.
On the same day, Avenatti, who became a national celebrity last year while representing adult film star Stormy Daniels in lawsuits against the president, was hit with separate wire and bank fraud charges by federal prosecutors in Los Angeles. Authorities said Avenatti’s arrest was coordinated between the two U.S. attorneys’ offices.
New York prosecutors allege that Avenatti threatened to reveal allegations that the company illegally bribed high school basketball players and their families — claims at the center of a wide-ranging federal investigation — unless Nike hired Avenatti and an unnamed co-conspirator to conduct an “internal investigation” of the company for somewhere between $15 million and $25 million.
Avenatti threatened to go public with the information on the eve of Nike’s quarterly earnings call and at the start of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament to maximize “the potential financial and reputational damage his press conference could cause to Nike,” prosecutors said. The attorney on Monday morning tweeted out plans for a news conference the next day.
On Wednesday, Avenatti called the extortion accusations “absurd” but declined to offer a specific rebuttal to prosecutors’ claims.
“But what I will say is the way this has been framed is not accurate,” he said. “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.”
When CBS correspondent Jericka Duncan pointed out that the charges Avenatti faces could put him in prison for the rest of his life, the typically hard-nosed attorney flashed some relatively rare emotion.
“Well, of course I’m nervous,” he said. As someone suddenly on the other end of a criminal case, Avenatti said, “I am nervous. I’m concerned. I’m scared.”
But, he added, “I am confident because I believe the facts are on my side.”
Avenatti was released from jail on Monday after putting up $300,000 bond as he awaits trial. He will appear in court in New York on Monday and in California at a later date, authorities said.