September 24, 2019 / 2:57 PM / 24 days ago

U.S. calls Michael Avenatti request to subpoena Nike a 'fishing expedition'

NEW YORK, Sept 24 (Reuters) - U.S. prosecutors urged a Manhattan federal judge to reject Michael Avenatti’s request to subpoena Nike Inc, calling it a “fishing expedition” unrelated to a criminal case accusing the embattled lawyer of extortion.

In a letter late on Monday, prosecutors said they and Nike had already turned over 3,360 pages of documents to Avenatti, and the added materials he wanted were irrelevant to his knowledge or state of mind when he allegedly broke the law.

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 appeared to be on “a mission to uncover evidence that he speculates might show payments (that he asserts, without explanation, might be unlawful) to unidentified ‘other’ players,” prosecutors told U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe.

They called the proposed subpoena “a fishing expedition for material without relevance to the forthcoming trial.”

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.

“I look forward to a jury hearing the real truth as to what happened as opposed to the fairytale scripted by Trump’s DOJ,” Avenatti said in an email on Tuesday, referring to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Avenatti’s lawyers have said their client was entitled to present “evidence of broader misconduct directed by Nike across amateur basketball” in his defense, which a subpoena could help unearth.

Nike has denied Avenatti’s claims, and in a letter made public on Friday, opposed a subpoena. “It is Mr. Avenatti—not Nike—on trial,” the company’s lawyers wrote.

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

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 pleaded not guilty to the various charges.

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)

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