The high-profile California lawyer Michael Avenatti, who just two years ago mulled a run for president, today was found guilty in New York federal court of trying to extort millions of dollars from Nike, Oregon's sportswear giant.
He was convicted of transmission of interstate communications with intent to extort, attempted extortion, and honest services wire fraud.
Avenatti was previously representing youth basketball coach Gary Franklin, who said Nike executives bullied him and "forced him to make the illicit payments to top high school basketball players and their families," CNN reported.
Avenatti said he would publicly accuse Nike of illicitly paying amateur basketball players if the company did not pay him significantly. According to CNN's report, Avenatti told lawyers that Nike would have to pay Franklin $1.5 million for each of his claims, "immediately" pay Avenatti and another attorney $12 million, and another $15 to $25 million for an internal investigation.
Prosecutors argued that Avenatti was in "crushing debt" at the time he was hired to represent Franklin, CNN reported, and that he used Franklin as a "meal ticket" with which he could extort millions.
Nike attorney Benjamin Holmes testified that the demands from Avenatti "evolved into really a shakedown," CNN reported.
Avenatti's allegations against Nike were one of several scandals the sportswear giant has battled over the past two years—and probably the least damaging.
Nike issued a statement following today's ruling: "The verdict speaks volumes. We thank the jurors for their time and service which is the bedrock of the American judicial system."
Avenatti's sentencing is scheduled for June 14, 2020.