September 24, 2019 / 3:03 PM / 25 days ago

Michael Avenatti withdraws request to subpoena Nike in U.S. extortion case

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Michael Avenatti on Tuesday withdrew his request to subpoena Nike Inc in connection with the federal criminal case accusing the embattled lawyer of extortion, after the company said prosecutors already possessed all the documents he sought.

Attorney Michael Avenatti leaves United States Court in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., July 23, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

The withdrawal came fewer than 24 hours after prosecutors called the subpoena a “fishing expedition” unrelated to the extortion case, which the U.S. Department of Justice announced in March. Avenatti has pleaded not guilty.

Nike had also opposed the subpoena in a letter made public on Friday, and Avenatti’s lawyers said they did not know until then that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York already had the documents they wanted.

“Because Nike has now confirmed, for the first time, that the USAO-SDNY possesses all of the documents that Mr. Avenatti seeks from Nike — and the USAO-SDNY accepts Nike’s representation — we are withdrawing our request for a ... subpoena to Nike,” wrote Scott Srebnick, a lawyer for Avenatti.

Srebnick said he will discuss with prosecutors which documents will be turned over and if necessary, file motions to obtain documents that might help Avenatti’s defense.

Prosecutors accused Avenatti of threatening to publicize claims that Nike arranged for payments to elite college basketball recruits unless the athletic wear company paid him more than $20 million and hired him to manage an internal probe.

Avenatti, 48, became famous for representing porn star Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, in lawsuits involving U.S. President Donald Trump and his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen.

He also faces federal charges in Manhattan of stealing about $300,000 from Daniels after helping her secure a book contract.

In a decision late Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts in Manhattan rejected Avenatti’s request to move that case to California, saying that two key witnesses, Daniels’ agent and her publisher, were in New York.

Federal prosecutors in Southern California have separately charged Avenatti with wire fraud, bank fraud and other crimes, saying he stole millions of dollars from clients.

Avenatti has also pleaded not guilty to charges in the Daniels and California cases, which he had argued were similar.

He said in an email earlier Tuesday about the Nike case: “I look forward to a jury hearing the real truth as to what happened as opposed to the fairytale scripted by Trump’s DOJ.”

The case is U.S. v. Avenatti, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 19-cr-00373.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Cynthia Osterman

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