High profile attorney Michael Avenatti was freed on $300K bond late Monday night, hours after he was arrested and charged with wire fraud and extortion in a case involving sportswear giant Nike.
Avenatti did not enter a plea in court and he was ordered to surrender his U.S. and Italian passports. His travel is restricted to the Southern District of NY and the Central District of California where he is scheduled to attend court hearings in April.
A prosecutor called Avenatti's actions "an old fashioned shakedown."
Avenatti, 48, spoke briefly to reporters gathered outside the courthouse in Lower Manhattan. "I will never stop fighting that good fight," he said. "I will be fully exonerated and justice will be done."
He denied shaking down Nike for over $20 million - even though the feds caught him on video and audio demanding money in meetings with Nike lawyers.
Federal prosectors accuse Avenatti of threatening to release damaging information alleging that Nike made payments to the families of high school and college basketball recruits.
In two meetings with Nike lawyers in New York City last week, Avenatti threatened that if his demands were not met, he would hold a press conference on Monday, March 25, that would "take ten billion dollars off your client's market cap" by causing the company stock to tank. He added, "I'm not f---ing around!"
During the negotiations, Avenatti implied that "90 percent" of singer R. Kelly's accusers were lying. Avenatti turned over sex tapes to Chicago prosecutors that resulted in new charges against the 52-year-old singer.
Avenatti laid out a scenario for Nike lawyers if he released damaging information about Nike:
"as soon as this becomes public, I am going to receive calls from all over the country from parents and coaches and friends and all kinds of people - this is always what happens - and they are all going to say 'I've got an email or a text message...' 90% of that is going to be bullshit because it's always bullshit 90% of the time, always, whether it's R. Kelly or Trump."
Legal analysts say Avenatti's statements could jeopardize the case against R. Kelly.
The anti-Trump lawyer demanded $1.5 million to be paid to his client, the coach of a California AAU basketball team whose contract with Nike was not renewed. Avenatti also asked Nike for $15 million to $25 million to retain his services and the services of celebrity attorney Mark Geragos to conduct an "internal audit" for Nike.
In court documents, Avenatti suggested the outcome of the internal audit would be favorable for Nike. He also offered Nike a "confidential settlement" of $22.5 million in hush money to make him and Geragos go away quietly.
"Full confidentiality," he said. "We ride off into the sunset."
As part of his bond a judge ordered Avenatti not to mention Nike publicly. But Avenatti violated the terms of his bond within hours of his release.
Around 3:30 a.m. Eastern Time, Avenatti tweeted:
"Any claim that Nike or their attorneys at Boies (the firm that represented Weinstein and Theranos) have been "cooperating" with the government for a year is bogus. They lied to prosecutors for over a year in connection with the Addidas case and hid their own payments to players."
He deleted the tweet a few minutes later, after his Twitter followers warned him that he could end up back in jail by morning.
And while I'm no expert on American federal criminal procedure, you should probably not tweet about this
— Some Dude (@EmmanuelSpamer) March 26, 2019
CNN legal contributor Geragos, 61, was not named in the federal indictment, but he was named by the Wall Street Journal as Avenatti's co-conspirator "celebrity attorney CC-1".
CNN quickly cut ties with Geragos hours after he was named as Avenatti's co-conspirator. By Monday evening all traces of Geragos as a CNN contributor were scrubbed from CNN's website.
Avenatti faces up to 107 years in prison if convicted on all charges.
Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images, David McNew/Getty Images