Celebrity attorneys Michael Avenatti and Mark Geragos now need lawyers themselves after getting snared in a federal extortion case.
Avenatti was arrested Monday in Manhattan and charged with four counts of extortion and conspiracy, according to the federal complaint. He is also facing federal wire fraud and bank fraud charges in California, where prosecutors allege he embezzled a client’s money to pay his own expenses, according to a separate complaint from the U.S. Attorney’s Office Central District of California.
On Monday evening, he posted $300,000 bond and told reporters he’s confident he will be “fully exonerated.”
The embattled attorney represented porn star Stormy Daniels against President Trump, and has said he is now working with accusers in the R. Kelly sexual abuse case.
Federal investigators in New York allege Avenatti tried to extort Nike for more than $20 million, by threatening negative publicity if the company didn’t pay up.
Just before he was arrested, Avenatti took to Twitter to say he was going after Nike: “Tmrw at 11 am ET, we will be holding a press conference to disclose a major high school/college basketball scandal perpetrated by @Nike that we have uncovered. This criminal conduct reaches the highest levels of Nike and involves some of the biggest names in college basketball.”
According to the Southern District of New York complaint, “The allegations related to Nike arose out of Mr. Avenatti’s representation of a client identified in the complaint as the coach of an amateur men’s basketball program in California.”
Prosecutors said Avenatti initially approached Nike on behalf of that client, who coached a Nike-sponsored program. The complaint said Avenatti met with Nike attorneys and “threatened to release damaging information about Nike if Nike did not agree to make multi-million dollar payments.”
On or about March 20, he is alleged to have spoken with Nike reps on the phone and warned them, “I’m not f—ing around.”
He was arrested at a New York law firm where he had a meeting with Nike executives.
Geragos was not named in the complaint and has not been charged.
But multiple reports outed him as the lawyer referred to in the complaint against Avenatti as “an attorney licensed in California who’s known for his representation of celebrity and public figure clients.”
Geragos has represented a string of celebrities, including Chris Brown, Winona Ryder, Michael Jackson, and is currently part of Empire actor Jussie Smollet’s legal team.
On Monday afternoon after the allegations arose, CNN dropped Geragos from its roster of legal analysts.
CNN’s chief media correspondent, Brian Stelter, tweeted Monday: “Attorney Mark Geragos moonlighted as a CNN legal analyst… but not anymore, per a CNN spokeswoman. He’s no longer a contributor.”