SDNY COURTHOUSE, Jan 30 – When after three days of jury selection the trial of Michael Avenatti for allegedly extorting Nike began on January 29, Assistant US Attorney Robert Sobelman told the selected jurors that Avenatti was supposed to look out for the interests of his client, but he did not.
Avenatti had a very modern weapon, Sobelman said: social media. Inner City Press live-tweeted the proceedings, here, and will have more. More on Patreon here.
Avenatti's lawyer Howard Srebnick in his longer opening followed up on that theme, even emphasizing that Avenatti has, or had, 800,000 followers on Twitter and could take on a titan like Nike. He mentioned Stormy Daniel but as ruled on by Judge Paul G. Gardephe before trial, did not name Colin Kaepernick.
Overnight, AUSA Daniel Richenthal wrote to Judge Gardephe objecting to portions of Howard Srebnick's opening statement and arguing it opened the door to entry into evidence of two text messages from Auerbach to Avenatti:
"The Government respectfully writes with two requests in light of the defendant’s opening statement this afternoon. First, the Government requests that the Court preclude the defendant from describing or making arguments based on the content of text messages between Jeffrey Auerbach and Gary Franklin, Sr., not seen by the defendant, unless (i) a witness testifies in a manner that is materially inconsistent with those messages, and (ii) the Court determines that a specific message may offered as a prior inconsistent statement. Second, the Government requests that the Court rule that the defendant has opened the door to the admission of two text messages sent by Mr. Auerbach to the defendant."
In the first of these March 25, 2019 messages, "Mr. Auerbach, in response to a Twitter post of the defendant prior to his arrest... stated that the post was 'very upsetting' and that the defendant should “call me before going public in any way."
One might expect Judge Gardephe to address this on January 30, as well as it seems hearing from a Nike lawyer. Watch this site.
On January 29 the first witness was Scott Wilson who was a lawyer with Boies Schiller in March 2019 when Mark Geragos came calling saying Avenatti wanted a meeting directly with Nike.
After some back and forth about meeting at Hudson Yards or Geragos' office on Fifth Avenue, the meeting was held. Wilson said Avenatti began by saying he had evidence of Nike paying the number one draft pick in the last NBA draft.
Wilson quoted himself asking Avenatti, Are who was that?
Assistant US Attorney Matthew Podolsky asked Wilson why he asked.
To throw Avenatti off, Wilson said. But apparently it didn't. Avenatti said Deandre Ayton and got back to the demands. Ulimately the FBI was called in to secretly record Avenatti. And the US Attorney's office never went after Nike, after jailing Adidas' Jim Gatto.