Avenatti Seeks to Toss New Fraud Charge in Nike-Extortion Case

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(Bloomberg) -- Celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti said a new fraud charge in the extortion case against him should be tossed out because it conflicts with the Supreme Court’s ruling in the prosecution of former Enron Corp. Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Skilling.

The charge of “honest services” wire fraud should be dismissed because the 2010 Skilling ruling limited such claims to cases involving bribes and kickbacks, “neither of which is present here,” Avenatti said in a filing Friday in Manhattan federal court.

Avenatti is accused of trying to extort $25 million from Nike Inc. while representing an elite-youth basketball coach who claimed to have information about improper payments to athletes by Nike. The new charge suggests Avenatti was depriving his client of his honest services, which the lawyer denies.

The new charge was “the government’s thinly-veiled attempt to present the jury with a more sympathetic ‘victim’ than Nike,” according to the filing.

The U.S. claims Avenatti demanded the payment in exchange for canceling a potentially damaging press conference about the company. The U.S. has dropped conspiracy charges against Avenatti, who gained a national profile after suing President Donald Trump on behalf of adult-film star Stormy Daniels.

Skilling was released from prison in February after serving 12 years for the fraud that kicked off what was at the time the biggest corporate bankruptcy in U.S. history.

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