Celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti, who was convicted of trying to extort over $20 million from Nike, was temporarily released from a federal jail in New York City because of concerns over the coronavirus, authorities said Saturday.
Avenatti has to report back to jail in 90 days, U.S. District Judge James Selna said in his order.
Avenatti, the former lawyer for porn star Stormy Daniels, was found guilty in February of trying to extort Nike. According to court papers, Avenatti and an uncharged conspirator threatened to hold a news conference to ruin the sportswear giant's reputation unless the company agreed to pay him and his client millions of dollars.
In a recorded call obtained by the FBI, Avenatti was heard pressuring the company to pay the money. Prosecutors said he wanted Nike to pay his client $1.5 million and to give him and his co-conspirator $15 million to $25 million to conduct an "internal investigation" for the company. At the time of the scheme, Avenatti was alleged to be more than $11 million in debt.
He pleaded not guilty, and his attorney said Avenatti was simply pursuing an honest negotiation with the brand on behalf of his client.
Avenatti also faces legal troubles in California, where he is alleged to have defrauded clients and absconded with payments to them that he was able to obtain.
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He also faces a separate federal case in New York, where he is alleged to have stolen almost $300,000 from Daniels. The money was owed to her from a book deal. Avenatti has pleaded not guilty.
Before Avenatti is allowed to leave the Metropolitan Correctional Center, Selna said, he has to quarantine for 14 days and submit to a health screening to ensure that he does not have the coronavirus.
He will be released to home confinement at a friend's house in Los Angeles. A $1 million bond was posted to secure his release.