March 26, 2019 / 11:40 PM / 4 months ago

Avenatti says 'nervous' about prison time but proclaims innocence

LOS ANGELES, March 26 (Reuters) - Michael Avenatti on Tuesday again proclaimed his innocence on charges he tried to extort millions of dollars from Nike Inc, but in an interview with CBS, admitted he was concerned about doing prison time.

Avenatti, 48, was arrested on Monday following two separate indictments, handed down in federal courts in Los Angeles and New York, that charged him with the alleged Nike scheme as well as embezzlement and fraud over accusations he misused a client's money.

CBS News on Tuesday released an excerpt of an interview it conducted with Avenatti in which he said he was worried about the possibility of going to prison for decades.

"Sure I'm nervous, I'm scared. I'm all those things. And if I wasn't, it wouldn't make a lot of sense," Avenatti said in the brief clip released by CBS on Tuesday.

Avenatti, in a series of tweets earlier on Tuesday, lashed out at Nike and insisted he was innocent.

"I am anxious for people to see what really happened," the flamboyant attorney known for representing adult film actress Stormy Daniels, said in one tweet. "We never attempted to extort Nike & when the evidence is disclosed, the public will learn the truth about Nike’s crime & cover-up."

Nike said in a written statement the company "will not be extorted," and that it had immediately alerted investigators to the plot.

According to the criminal complaint, Avenatti told Nike he would go public unless it paid his client $1.5 million and hired him and another lawyer to conduct an internal investigation of the company for between $15 million and $25 million.

The charges were announced on Monday shortly after Avenatti said on Twitter he would hold a news conference to reveal "a major high school/college basketball scandal" reaching "the highest levels of Nike."

Avenatti faces up to 30 years in prison on the most serious charge in California and up to 20 years for the top charge in New York.

He faces separate charges in a Los Angeles federal court on April 1, accusing the high-profile lawyer of misusing a client's $1.6 million settlement to pay his own expenses as well as those for his coffee business. He was also charged with defrauding a Mississippi bank of $4.1 million.

Avenatti has gained international notoriety for representing Daniels, the 40-year-old porn star whom Trump is accused of paying off during the 2016 presidential campaign to keep quiet about an alleged affair.

Trump has denied having an affair with Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. (Reporting by Dan Whitcomb, editing by G Crosse)

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