Federal prosecutors are seeking an eight-year prison sentence for disgraced attorney Michael Avenatti in his attempted extortion case, and that’s not even close to the end of the legal troubles for the former media darling.
The spectacular downfall of Avenatti from possible Democratic presidential candidate – CNN’s Brian Stelter memorably told Avenatti he took him seriously as a White House contender because of his cable news presence – to convicted felon is yet another in a series of stinging media embarrassments in recent years.
Avenatti was convicted last year of trying to extort up to $25 million from Nike by threatening to go public with corruption allegations at the athletic apparel company and cause billions of dollars in valuation losses.
“The defendant, a prominent attorney and media personality with a large public following, betrayed his client and sought to enrich himself by weaponizing his public profile in an attempt to extort a publicly-traded company out of tens of millions of dollars. This was an egregious abuse of trust, and it warrants real and serious punishment,” prosecutors wrote in their court filing, according to the Associated Press.
Avenatti’s legal troubles aren’t close to being over after he is sentenced later this month in the Nike case. He also will stand trial in Los Angeles this year on charges of defrauding clients out of millions, and next year he will go to trial in Manhattan again after porn star and former client Stormy Daniels alleged he stole $300,000 from her on a book deal.
Three years ago, Avenatti was a near-daily presence on CNN, MSNBC, and other liberal networks through his representation of Daniels and her legal battles with former President Donald Trump. In his hundreds of appearances, hosts delighted in his tough talk and pledged to be the one to bring Trump down; on multiple occasions, he wrongly predicted Trump would not complete his term in office. Despite his caginess and rainmaking style of promising damning information at every turn, the press turned to him again and again.
Media praise of the lawyer is so extensive that it’s difficult to document. He was a constant fixture on left-wing programs like MSNBC’s “Deadline: White House” and “The Last Word,” as well as “CNN Tonight with Don Lemon” and “AC 360,” and he also made appearances on network morning shows, “The View,” and “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.”
“The View” co-host Joy Behar called him “the only person Donald Trump fears more than Robert Mueller” and praised him for being “out there saving the country,” MSNBC host Stephanie Ruhle said Democrats could learn a lesson from the “beast,” and HBO’s Bill Maher called him Trump’s “worst nightmare.” MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace, known for cooing over her liberal guests, at one point said she was “dying” to hear his take on a matter, and the Washington Post’s Philip Rucker said he “stands out” among the Democratic presidential hopefuls.
“If they decide they value a fighter the most, people would be foolish to underestimate Michael Avenatti,” Wallace said in 2018, after praising a speech he planned to give in Iowa as hitting the “right notes.”
“I have always said they need a fighter,” MSNBC contributor Jason Johnson said at the time. “You need someone who is not going to take the high road because the high road doesn’t work with this guy [Trump].”
Avenatti’s star began to fall when he represented Julie Swetnick and bizarrely accused then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in 2018 of attending “gang rape” parties. The accusations were so outlandish that some Democrats blamed him in part for Kavanaugh’s eventual confirmation. In 2019, he was indicted on both coasts for multiple financial criminal charges, including embezzlement, attempted extortion, and fraud.
A 2019 Vanity Fair profile reported he was abusive and violent with an ex-girlfriend, and media figures said behind the scenes that he was volatile and threatening at times during his constant appearances.
The same magazine published a story a year earlier on Avenatti’s style and skincare routine.