Politics

Michael Avenatti released from New York jail over coronavirus concerns

By Minyvonne Burke and Diana Dasrath
Celebrity attorney Michael Avenatti walks out of a New York court house after a hearing in a case where he is accused of stealing $300,000 from a former client, adult-film actress Stormy Daniels on July 23, 2019 in New York City.
Spencer Platt | Getty Images

Celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti, who was convicted of trying to extort over $20 million from Nike, was temporarily released from a federal jail in New York City due to concerns over the coronavirus, authorities said Saturday.

Avenatti has to report back to jail in 90 days, U.S. District Judge James Selna stated in his order.

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The former lawyer for porn star Stormy Daniels was found guilty in February of trying to extort Nike. According to court papers, Avenatti and an uncharged conspirator threatened to hold a press conference to ruin the sportswear giant's reputation unless the company agreed to pay him and his client millions of dollars.

In a recorded call obtained by the FBI, Avenatti was heard pressuring the company to pay the money. Prosecutors said that he wanted Nike to pay his client $1.5 million and to give him and his co-conspirator $15 million to $25 million to conduct an "internal investigation" for the company. At the time of the scheme, Avenatti was allegedly more than $11 million in debt.

He pleaded not guilty, and his lawyer said Avenatti was simply pursuing an honest negotiation with the brand on behalf of his client.

Avenatti also faces legal troubles in California for allegedly defrauding clients and absconding with payments to them that he was able to obtain.

He also faces a separate federal case in New York for allegedly stealing almost $300,000 from Daniels. The money was owed to her from a book deal. Avenatti has pleaded not guilty to the accusation.

Before Avenatti is allowed to leave the Metropolitan Correctional Center, judge Selna said he has to quarantine for 14 days and submit to a health screening to ensure he does not have the coronavirus.

He will be released to home confinement at a friend's house in Los Angeles. A $1 million bond was posted to secure his release.