NEW YORK – New York prosecutors urged a judge Friday to order California lawyer Michael Avenatti to begin serving a 2 1/2-year prison term, more than a year after he was convicted of trying to extort up to $25 million from Nike.
Avenatti, 50, was initially allowed to postpone reporting to prison because he faced trial just days later in California on charges he defrauded clients and others there. That trial ended in a mistrial.
The uncertain schedule for when Avenatti will be retried in California means it's no longer a valid excuse to delay reporting to prison, said Manhattan federal prosecutors in a letter to the judge who sentenced Avenatti in July.
Avenatti’s lawyers responded later Friday in a court filing by saying he should get to remain free until Feb. 28 so he can prepare for a January New York trial and a California appeals case.
Avenatti gained a measure of fame in 2018 when he represented porn star Stormy Daniels in lawsuits against then-President Donald Trump. He appeared frequently on cable television programs.
Prosecutors noted that a Nov. 2 retrial date in Los Angeles was recently postponed and issues before a San Francisco federal appeals court could delay it months.
“In light of the foregoing, there is no longer a discrete, time-specific basis for continued delay of the defendant’s surrender. Moreover, it is in the interest of justice for the defendant to commence serving the term of incarceration that this Court imposed for his serious offenses, including defrauding his client,” prosecutors wrote.
In the Nike case, Avenatti was representing a California amateur basketball league coach when prosecutors said he threatened to use his access to media exposure to muddy the sportswear giant's name if it didn't pay him millions of dollars.
Attorneys for Avenatti did not immediately return a message seeking comment Friday.
In 2019, federal prosecutors in New York charged Avenatti with defrauding Daniels by failing to pay her hundreds of thousands of dollars she was owed from a book deal. Avenatti, who had pleaded not guilty, is scheduled to face trial on those charges in January.
His lawyers cited the Manhattan trial date and his pending appeals case in California as reasons for him to stay out of prison so he can better prepare for those legal fights. The lawyers noted that Avenatti remains on home confinement.
They also said Avenatti suffered “in horrific conditions” during a more than three-month stint in a federal lockup in Manhattan last year and they argued that the conditions at a Brooklyn facility where he would be housed if he was detained during the January trial would be as bad or worse.