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Celebrity attorney Michael Avenatti is one of the non-violent prisoners released from prison due to fears of the coronavirus spreading rapidly among the prison population.
Avenatti was in quarantine for 14 days to make sure he did not show symptoms of the coronavirus, Fox News reported. He was released Friday morning from a New York City federal jail and will be escorted to his friend’s house in Venice, California, where he will remain for the next three months while wearing an ankle monitoring bracelet. He is not allowed to use the Internet during that time but can see his wife.
Avenatti rose to celebrity status early in the Trump administration for representing porn star Stormy Daniels after she claimed to have an affair with Trump and was paid off by his campaign. Media outlets constantly interviewed Avenatti and praised him as the man who could beat Trump in 2020. Avenatti toyed with the prospect of running for president in 2020, but his legal issues forced him to drop the issue.
In February, Avenatti was found guilty of trying to extort Nike by threatening to publicly accuse the company of illegally paying amateur athletes. Avenatti told Nike, according to federal authorities, that he would not follow through if Nike paid him millions of dollars to go away. Avenatti also faces criminal trials for fraud in California and for stealing Daniels’ book advance. He has still not been sentenced for that crime.
In late March, Avenatti, who was also referred for criminal prosecution to the Department of Justice for representing fake Brett Kavanaugh accuser Julie Swetnick, asked a federal judge to release him from prison for fear of contracting coronavirus, The Daily Wire previously reported. Avenatti claimed at the time that he had past complications and was in danger of contracting the coronavirus due to his cellmate. Avenatti was initially denied the ability to leave prison early, but in mid-April, a federal judge granted Avenatti’s request.
When his request was initially denied, Politico reported that the judge said there was no reason to release Avenatti because the Bureau of Prisons and the jail where he was held had plans for “at-risk” prisoners such as Avenatti.
“We’re really gratified that the judge took the action that he did,” Avenatti’s attroney told Fox News. “He recognized the seriousness of the situation.”
Avenatti insisted he did not extort Nike but was defending his client, Gary Franklin, whose Los Angeles, California, youth basketball program lost its sponsorship deal with Nike worth $72,000. As Fox reported, “Franklin testified that two Nike executives forced him to pay money to the mother of an elite high school basketball player’s mother and to pass along payments to the handlers of other players while doctoring paperwork to hide the purpose of the funds.”