Thus far, 2020 has not been a very good year for Michael Avenatti.
On Valentine’s Day, he was convicted of attempted extortion, honest-services fraud, and the use of interstate communications for illegal purposes. His trial took place in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY).
All of the charges concerned Avenatti’s failed attempt to coerce the Nike Company to pay him $25 million to conduct an investigation into the company’s alleged funneling of under-the-table payments to college basketball players.
According to federal prosecutors, Avenatti needed the money to pay for a lavish lifestyle that included a $12 million oceanfront home in Laguna Beach, a $5 million private jet, a Porsche and a Ferrari – and a failed chain of coffeehouses.
Evidence in the Nike case included an audiotape of Avenatti threatening to cause the company to lose $10 billion in market value if it didn’t hire him to undertake the proposed investigation. “I’m not fucking around with this…A few million dollars doesn’t move the needle for me,” he said during one of three phone calls with a Nike lawyer in March 2019.
Avenatti chose not to testify in his trial after U.S. District Court Judge Paul G. Gardephe ruled that he could be cross-examined about his “desperate financial condition” – and about accusations that he had lied repeatedly to various parties not involved in the SDNY case (This was another instance in which the court was willing to let the prosecution introduce “evidence” that had nothing to do with the charged crimes).
When he is sentenced on June 17th, Avenatti will be facing a maximum penalty of 42 years in federal prison. But, as with all federal cases, his actual sentence will be up to the judge who presided over his trial.
More Trials Ahead for Avenatti
And there’s still more trouble ahead for the former media darling who was once being talked about as a potential Democrat candidate to run against President Trump in the November elections.
He is currently slated to start another trial on April 21st in the same courthouse where he was convicted earlier this month.
That trial concerns his alleged theft of nearly $300,000 from his former client Stormy Daniels. The funds in question were part of the advanced payment she received for her best-selling memoir “Full Disclosure”.
Avenatti also faces a third federal trial in California for allegedly ripping off five other clients – one of whom is a paraplegic – and for fraudulently obtaining bank loans, evading taxes, and committing perjury during his bankruptcy proceedings there.
Avenatti Has Been on Lockdown at MCC
Avenatti was held in an isolation cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) from January 18th through February 25th.
He was transported there from California after being arrested for allegedly violating his pre-trial bail conditions – and was immediately placed in the cell that had previously been occupied by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán, the Mexican drug cartel leader who was convicted on numerous charges in another SDNY trial last February.
For the past 8 days, MCC has been on a facility-wide lockdown as guards – some of whom were brought in from other prisons – searched for a loaded gun that had supposedly been smuggled inside. During the lockdown, prisoners were confined to their cells 24-hours a day – and no visitors, including attorneys, were allowed in the facility (MCC started allowing lawyers to resume visits yesterday).
The gun was found Thursday night in one of the prisoner housing units.
Prior to finding the gun, guards also uncovered a large amount of contraband – including cellphones, drugs, pornography, and homemade weapons.
The lockdown was scheduled to continue at least through yesterday in order to ensure that every area in the prison had been searched.
MCC is the prison where Jeffrey Epstein allegedly committed suicide last August 10th. Following that incident, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) launched an internal probe that has already resulted in criminal charges being brought against two of MCC’s guards.
Meanwhile, based on the results of this past week’s search efforts at MCC, federal prosecutors from the SDNY have launched a criminal investigation concerning the flow of contraband into the prison.
BOP Rarely Prosecutes Guards for Contraband Sales to Prisoners
Although the BOP rarely prosecutes guards for bringing in contraband, the reality is they are the ones who bring in most of the prohibited items that are found in federal prisons.
Guards in most federal prisons are allowed to enter the facilities without going through any type of screening device – which makes it relatively easy for them to bring in contraband when they report for duty.
Prisoners usually pay for such contraband by having friends and family members deposit cash in a guard’s account at an E-commerce company such as PayPal, Venmo, Cash.App, etc.
Prices for cell phones and a charger vary by prison but are usually available in the $500- $1,000 range.
And international cell phones – like the one that was confiscated from NXIVM leader Keith Raniere last year – can cost as much as $2,500.
Federal guards start out by earning $44,515 per year – and the average annual pay for a federal guard is $51,370.
Given those potential earnings, it’s easy to understand why some guards seek to pick up extra income by becoming contraband couriers (Selling just one cell phone and charger per month can net a guard an extra $5,000-$10,000 in untaxed income per year).
Avenatti’s Epic Fall
Michael Avenatti is living proof that you don’t have to join a cult in order to ruin your life.
Whereas people like Clare Bronfman and Allison Mack didn’t really fuck up their lives until they came into contact with Keith Raniere and his NXIVM criminal enterprise, Avenatti blew up his life all by himself.
From celebrity attorney, nightly news commentator and potential presidential candidate, the 49-year-old Michael Avenatti is just another convicted felon who is going to be spending much – if not the rest of – his life in federal prison.
From a name that became familiar to millions to Federal Prisoner #86743-054.
An epic fall…