January 6, 2020 / 3:46 PM / 6 months ago

Celebrity lawyer Avenatti fails to narrow Nike extortion indictment

NEW YORK, Jan 6 (Reuters) - A U.S. federal judge on Monday rejected Michael Avenatti's bid to dismiss two of the three counts in an indictment accusing the celebrity lawyer of trying to extort Nike Inc.

U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe in Manhattan said prosecutors had sufficiently alleged that Avenatti engaged in wrongful conduct by threatening Nike with economic and reputational harm if it did not pay him millions of dollars.

He also said it was premature to dismiss the two counts, alleging extortion and transmitting interstate communications with intent to extort, on the grounds they were vague. The third count accused Avenatti of honest services wire fraud.

Lawyers for Avenatti did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman in Manhattan declined to comment.

Avenatti has pleaded not guilty to illegally demanding up to $25 million from Nike last March in exchange for not publicizing allegations it made improper payments to top college basketball recruits, and for being hired to conduct an internal probe.

A trial is scheduled for Jan. 21. Avenatti became famous representing porn star Stormy Daniels and becoming an antagonist of U.S. President Donald Trump. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York Editing by Paul Simao)

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