Prosecutors say California attorney Michael Avenatti was over $15 million in debt when he tried to extort up to $25 million from Nike, while Avenatti's lawyers say the money he legally requested to conduct an internal probe of the sportswear giant was a bargain. Both sides made the assertions in court papers filed late Tuesday in advance of a Jan. 22 criminal trial in Manhattan, giving US District Judge Paul G. Gardephe time to decide what the jury will be allowed to hear and see. For Avenatti, it's the first of three scheduled trials in the next five months, per the AP. He has denied all charges. Federal prosecutors said they plan to show the jury that Avenatti owed "conservatively, in excess of $15 million"—to ex-clients, one or more former law partners, both of his ex-spouses for child and spousal support in arrears, and a lawyer the government IDed as "Attorney-1."
Prosecutors say they plan to prove the debts through documents and testimony from a witness who helped Avenatti manage his finances, as well as a law enforcement witness. The evidence will prove "he had extraordinary indebtedness, and thus the need and motive to quickly generate substantial sums of money at the time when he engaged in the charged conduct,” prosecutors wrote. Avenatti's lawyers asserted in their papers Tuesday that Avenatti late last winter was seeking between $15 million and $20 million to conduct an internal probe within Nike after lawyers for the company indicated they were interested in such an investigation. Avenatti told the AP on Wednesday that "any claim that I was $15 million in debt is ridiculous, absurd, and laughable."
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