NEWYORK (Reuters) – Lawyer Michael Avenatti asked a federal judge to dismiss an indictment accusing him of trying to extort Nike Inc, saying he was targeted in a “vindictive and selective prosecution” because of his feud with U.S. President Donald Trump.
Avenatti made his request in filings on Wednesday night with the federal court in Manhattan.
Prosecutors accused Avenatti in March of trying to extort more than $20 million from Nike by threatening to expose what he called its improper payments to recruits for college basketball teams it sponsored. Nike has denied wrongdoing.
A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman in Manhattan declined to comment on Thursday.
Avenatti is also known for having represented porn star Stormy Daniels, who claimed to have received hush money not to discuss an affair she had with Trump in 2006. The president has denied having had sex with Daniels.
In Wednesday’s filings, Avenatti accused Berman’s office of having “eschewed the typically careful and thoughtful fact-gathering investigation on which it historically prides itself,” in its “zest to nab” him.
Avenatti said the office “substituted its own personal impressions” of him based on his “aggressive public persona,” criticisms of Trump, and brief involvement in the prosecution of Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen.
He said that if he were “attorney Doe,” he would not have been arrested or charged.
Avenatti faces separate charges in California alleging wire fraud, bank fraud and other crimes, and in New York alleging that he defrauded Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. He has pleaded not guilty to the various charges.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Bill Trott and Steve Orlofsky)