January 14, 2020 / 11:57 PM / a month ago

U.S. judge rejects Michael Avenatti request to delay Nike extortion trial

NEW YORK, Jan 14 (Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Tuesday rejected Michael Avenatti's request to delay a scheduled Jan. 21 criminal trial accusing the celebrity lawyer of trying to extort Nike Inc.

U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe in Manhattan decided during a telephone conference with federal prosecutors and Avenatti's lawyers not to disturb the trial schedule, saying he did not believe the prosecutors had violated rules by turning over some evidence late.

The judge denied a motion by Avenatti to bar the prosecutors from using any evidence that they turned over since Jan. 3.

Avenatti is also seeking to bar prosecutors from introducing evidence about his finances. Gardephe has not yet ruled on that issue.

Lawyers for Avenatti had complained on Monday that prosecutors recently and unfairly overwhelmed them with large amounts of new materials in a "document dump," making it difficult to prepare for a trial next week.

Prosecutors countered that the materials were not delivered late, and accused Avenatti of hoping to use them as part of an improper effort to make Nike the villain and distract jurors from his own guilt.

Avenatti became famous over the last two years from representing porn star Stormy Daniels and criticizing U.S. President Donald Trump.

The criminal case stemmed from Avenatti's representation of youth basketball coach Gary Franklin, and allegations that Nike made improper payments to college basketball recruits.

Prosecutors charged Avenatti last March with threatening to reveal the alleged payments at a news conference unless the athletic wear company paid him up to $25 million to conduct an internal probe, and Franklin up to $1.5 million.

Nike has denied wrongdoing. Avenatti has pleaded not guilty.

The case is U.S. v. Avenatti, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 19-cr-00373. (Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Tom Brown)

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