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Michael Avenatti says Nike extortion charges are bogus, prosecutors being ‘played’

March 26, 2019 GMT

Newly indicted lawyer Michael Avenatti took to Twitter Tuesday morning to blast Nike, the shoe and sports clothing company, saying that it is trying to distract from its own criminal behavior by accusing him of extortion.

Mr. Avenatti said federal prosecutors, who brought charges in both New York and California against the anti-Trump one-time Democratic presidential hopeful, were being bamboozled by Nike.

He did not, though, immediately address the other charges on the West Coast, where the IRS said it’s been investigating him for four years, and found he didn’t pay taxes for at least three years, lied to obtain a bank loan and embezzled money from a law firm client.

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Mr. Avenatti had been poised to hold a press conference Tuesday to announce what he said would be damaging revelations about Nike paying off high school or college basketball players.

Minutes after his Monday tweet announcing the press conference, federal authorities announced he’d been arrested in New York and charged with extortion stemming from the Nike situation. He was also at the same time charged with the financial crimes from the California case, where authorities had obtained a sealed warrant last week.

Prosecutors said they have on tape Mr. Avenatti discussing his offer to Nike that it pay him as much as $25 million to conduct an internal investigation into the company’s practices, or a $22.5 million one-time payment to just go away and hide the allegations.

Mr. Avenatti said it was bogus.

“Nike’s attempt at diversion and cover-up will fail miserably once prosecutors realize they have been played by Nike and their lawyers at Boies. This reaches the highest levels of Nike,” he said on Twitter.

Nike, in a statement Monday after the charges, declined to talk about Mr. Avenatti’s allegations specifically, but said it had been cooperating with a broader federal probe into shoe company payments.

Mr. Avenatti said that was not true.

“Unless you count lying in response to subpoenas and withholding documents as ‘cooperating,’ ” he said. “They are trying to divert attention from their own crimes.”

The lawyer said he expects to be exonerated.

The California case may be the more dangerous to Mr. Avenatti, with investigators bringing initial charges of wire and bank fraud, but saying the IRS is still investigating his tax problems. That case began in 2015, while the Obama administration was still in office.

Also Monday, Mr. Avenatti’s most famous client, porn star Stormy Daniels, on whose behalf he sued President Trump, took to Twitter to say she believed the charges against him, and she herself has cut ties to him.

She promised to eventually reveal what happened.