U.S. judge orders Michael Avenatti to face fraud charge as Nike trial looms

U.S. judge orders Michael Avenatti to face fraud charge as Nike trial looms
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NEW YORK (Reuters) – A U.S. judge on Thursday rejected celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti’s bid to dismiss a criminal charge that he defrauded a client who he said knew about improper payments that Nike allegedly made to families of college basketball recruits.

U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe in Manhattan ruled three days after refusing to dismiss two extortion charges accusing Avenatti of threatening a news conference about the payments unless Nike paid him up to $25 million.

Nike has denied wrongdoing.

“When the actual evidence is heard at trial rather than the baseless allegations in the indictment, I will be fully cleared because I did nothing wrong,” Avenatti, 48, said in a text message. “I am innocent.”

A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman in Manhattan declined to comment.

Known for representing porn star Stormy Daniels and criticizing U.S. President Donald Trump, Avenatti faces a Jan. 21 trial over his dealings with Nike, and two criminal trials this spring on unrelated charges. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Prosecutors accused Avenatti of telling Nike last March he would not publicize his client Gary Franklin’s claims about the payments if the sportswear company would pay Franklin $1.5 million, and him up to $25 million to conduct an internal probe.

Source: REUTERS

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