The embattled attorney, in court papers filed in New York federal court Monday by his lawyers Scott Srebnick and Jose Quinon, asks the judge to bar prosecutors from presenting evidence of his luxurious spending habits and subsequent debts.
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Avenatti, who rose to national prominence for representing adult film star Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against President Donald Trump, owed money for various luxury items, including an “expensive” home, a race car, a Porsche, a Ferrari and an airplane, at the time of his alleged attempt to extort Nike, his attorneys say in court documents. In addition to debts incurred by his lifestyle, Avenatti owed money to various individuals, among them Los Angeles lawyer Mark Geragos, according to the filing.
A $5 million personal judgment was issued against him in October 2018, several months before his alleged March 2019 attempt to extort Nike, when he purportedly tried to siphon over $22 million from the Swoosh. Avenatti had threatened to disclose evidence of misconduct by Nike executives ahead of the brand’s Q3 earnings report in March. Prosecutors argue that the attorney’s financial woes were a driving factor in Avenatti’s alleged attempts to extort Nike.
But Srebnick and Quinon argue that these debts should not be taken into evidence, as they do “not bear at all on whether he committed the alleged crimes.”
“[E]vidence of Mr. Avenatti’s financial condition and spending habits would unfairly prejudice the jury against him,” the filing reads. “Avenatti requests that the Court exclude any evidence on this topic and bar any reference to such issues by government counsel.” Avenatti declined to comment on the filing in an email to FN.
In March, Avenatti was arrested minutes after tweeting that he planned to reveal an NCAA basketball bribery scandal amid the March Madness tournament. Federal prosecutors charged the lawyer with four counts related to his alleged attempt to extort Nike. After Nike purportedly failed to meet his demands, Avenatti posted on Twitter that Nike made illicit payments to multiple elite student athletes, among them No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick Zion Williamson.
According to Nov. 13 court documents, two of the charges against Avenatti have been dropped. However, the attorney, who maintains his innocence, faces wire fraud charges for purportedly lying to his client during the alleged extortion attempt. A trial is expected to begin in New York on Jan. 21.
Nike did not respond to FN’s requests for comment.
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