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Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels' Former Attorney, Charged With Fraud

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Los Angeles attorney Michael Avenatti says he is confident he will be, quote, "fully exonerated of criminal charges." The celebrity lawyer represented the adult film star Stormy Daniels in a case against President Trump, and that shot him to fame in the anti-Trump world. But he was arrested in New York yesterday, and he's facing charges in two sprawling financial crimes cases in New York and California. Here's more from NPR's Kirk Siegler.

KIRK SIEGLER, BYLINE: Michael Avenatti spoke briefly outside a New York courtroom yesterday after being released on bond.

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MICHAEL AVENATTI: For the entirety of my career, I have fought against the powerful - powerful people and powerful corporations.

SIEGLER: Avenatti said he's confident that when all the facts are laid out, in his words, justice will be done.

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AVENATTI: I will never stop fighting that good fight.

SIEGLER: The charge that's getting the most attention is in the New York case, where Avenatti is accused of trying to extort more than $20 million from Nike. In fact, shortly before his arrest, Avenatti tweeted he had planned to hold a press conference today in Manhattan to reveal what he said was a major basketball scandal perpetrated by the company. Instead, yesterday federal authorities brought him into custody.

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GEOFF BERMAN: Avenatti's conduct had nothing to do with zealous advocacy for a client or any other kind of legitimate legal work.

SIEGLER: Geoff Berman is the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

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BERMAN: Instead, Avenatti used illegal and extortionate threats for the purpose of obtaining millions of dollars in payments for himself.

SIEGLER: Berman would not say whether Avenatti's apparent case against Nike had merit, only that his office's investigation is ongoing. Here in California, the U.S. attorney for the state's central district, Nick Hanna, announced a separate criminal complaint against Avenatti on the same day, alleging wire and bank fraud.

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NICK HANNA: And contains a series of allegations that paint an ugly picture of lawless conduct and greed.

SIEGLER: These charges are the latest in a fast slide for Avenatti. In November, he was arrested in LA on suspicion of domestic violence, though no felony charges were filed. Avenatti once symbolized the Democratic Party's sharp divide over how to respond to Trump - take the high road or, as he famously said, when they go low, I say we hit harder. Kirk Siegler, NPR News, Los Angeles. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.