File this one in the “where are they now?” section. Michael Avenatti, briefly famous as the attorney who represented the adult film star known as Stormy Daniels in her legal fight with former President Donald Trump, awaits sentencing for his attempt to extort millions of dollars from sports apparel giant Nike.
Federal prosecutors are urging a “very substantial” prison term for the man who was briefly the darling of the left-wing media during Trump’s years in the White House. Avenatti was certainly a colorful character; arrogant, brash, and attention-hungry. Indeed, despite a not inconsiderable amount of personal debt, the man always appeared to be motivated by celebrity, far more than money.
Prior to his 2019 arrest, Avenatti faced off against Nike’s attorneys, threatening to expose a corruption scandal unless the corporation paid him more than $1.5 million and hired him – for an enormous fee – to carry out an internal investigation into the very scandal he was using against the company. “It’s worth more in exposure for me to just blow the lid on this thing,” he told Nike’s lawyers. “A few million dollars doesn’t move the needle with me.”
For a time, the anti-Trump media lavished praise and attention on the man they believed, or at least hoped, would bring down a president they so hated. They ignored his questionable professional ethics and helped him create a larger-than-life persona as a fearless defender of the little guy against the abuses of the rich and powerful.
Avenatti relished every minute of it, even appearing on Fox News to engage in heated verbal duels with Tucker Carlson. This was a man with a mission. It appears he may have calculated that publicity would, in the long run, be far more rewarding than the final outcome of any legal fight.
The Pity Plea
As it turned out, the attorney was funding a lavish lifestyle at the expense of his own clients, including Ms. Daniels. Things unraveled quickly, however, and Avenatti’s fall was as spectacular and as public as his rise. Remarkably, though, the man attempted to use even his own fall from grace as a bargaining chip, after he was found guilty on all counts in the Nike extortion case. Breathtaking in its audacity, a filing by Avenatti’s defense attorneys, Scott A. Srebnick and E. Danya Perry, urged the court to give him a lighter sentence in view of his “epic fall and public shaming.”
Attempting to secure a light sentence for its client, the defense claimed: “[Avenatti] is openly mocked by the former President of the United States and [Trump’s] preferred media outlets, to the glee of millions of the former president’s followers and supporters.” The dramatic sentencing memorandum went on to say: “He cannot go anywhere in public without inducing and subjecting himself to vitriolic comments and abuse.”
It is true, of course, that Avenatti’s downfall was greeted with a fair amount of schadenfreude by Trump and his supporters. More than likely, the latter would have paid far less attention to the lawyer’s public demise had he not been embraced by the leftist media. He had garnered far more adulation than he perhaps deserved, and so, for the 45th president’s followers, his disgrace was all the sweeter.
The Fall Continues
The final conclusion of the Nike case will not close the book on Michael Avenatti’s trials and tribulations. For the charges of which he was convicted, the Los Angeles-based attorney faces sentencing later this month. But he can yet look forward to standing trial in New York over a claim by Daniels that he stole a $300,000 book deal advance from her. Additionally, he faces charges in Los Angeles, relating to allegations that he defrauded legal clients out of millions of dollars, lied on income tax returns, and also lied to investigators during a bankruptcy proceeding.
Ever the opportunist, Avenatti probably wishes, at this point, that Trump was still in the White House. That way, he could portray himself as a political prisoner, of sorts; persecuted for daring to challenge a vengeful president – and the media would probably lend credibility to that story, too.
Read more from Graham J. Noble.