Avenatti Promises Surprises in Store for NY Extortion Trial

MANHATTAN (CN) – In a bid to delay Michael Avenatti’s extortion trial, attorneys told a federal judge Thursday that their subpoenas of Nike officials is sure to draw out proceedings through the fall.

Michael Avenatti speaks outside court in New York on Dec. 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

Avenatti was indicted by Manhattan federal prosecutors in March on charges that he demanded Nike pay him more than $22 million or else he would go public with allegations that Nike employees were violating recruitment rules for student athletes by paying basketball stars for teams it sponsored.

Avenatti’s defense filed two motions to dismiss, alleging vindictive and selective prosecution on Aug. 14, and contesting the extortion statute as unconstitutionally vague in another motion days later.

“Rather than probe Nike for the rampant and serious corruption barely below the surface, the USAO-SDNY has instead opted to prosecute the lawyer seeking to hold Nike accountable for the legitimate grievances of his client,” the Aug. 14 filing states.

In the motion that takes aim at the vagueness of the extortion statute, Avenatti’s lawyers said it fails to sufficiently notify an attorney that he may be prosecuted for threatening to truthfully expose misconduct directly related to his client’s claims for legal and equitable relief.

Intimating that he expects a complicated schedule of motions and briefings in the coming months, Avenatti’s Miami-based lawyer Scott Srebnick said in court today that it may be “a little bit ambitious” to expect Avenatti’s trial to begin as scheduled on Nov. 12.

Srebnick said he plans to seek subpoenas for Nike employees and legal counsel to convey how pervasive misconduct is in the world of sports sponsorship.

The lawyer also said testimony from Avenatti’s legal client, Gary Franklin, an amateur league basketball coach from Southern California, will blow the lid off the conspiracy’s breadth.

Franklin coached Deandre Ayton on his amateur league team California Supreme, before the Phoenix Suns made Ayton the NBA’s No. 1 draft pick after one season at the University of Arizona.

The evidence drawn at trial could possibly be so damning to Nike’s reputation, Srebnick said, he expects Nike officials might generously plead the Fifth Amendment during trial.

As part of the alleged extortion scheme, prosecutors say Avenatti demanded that Nike pay $1.5 million to unnamed client, who has since been identified as Franklin.

Srebnick also said he plans to convey a narrative to the jury that Avenatti’s alleged $22.5 million extortion figure was in fact a bargain compared to what corporations actually spend on internal investigations of misconduct.

U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe did not rule from the bench on Avenatti’s request for a continuance but did urge the defense counsel to file motions for subpoenas “sooner rather than later.”

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