United States v. Avenatti, No. 21-1778 (2d Cir. 2023)Annotate this Case
Defendant, a California licensed attorney, challenged (1) the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his conviction for transmitting extortionate communications in interstate commerce to sportswear leader Nike, attempted Hobbs Act extortion of Nike, and honest-services wire fraud of the client whom Defendant was purportedly representing in negotiations with Nike. Defendant further challenged the trial court’s jury instruction as to honest-services fraud and the legality of a $259,800.50 restitution award to Nike.
The Second Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the trial evidence was sufficient to support Defendant’s conviction for the two charged extortion counts because a reasonable jury could find that Defendant’s threat to injure Nike’s reputation and financial position was wrongful in that the multi-million-dollar demand supported by the threat bore no nexus to any claim of right. Further, the court held that the trial evidence was sufficient to support Defendant’s conviction for honest-services fraud because a reasonable jury could find that Defendant solicited a bribe from Nike in the form of a quid pro quo whereby Nike would pay Defendant many millions of dollars in return for which Defendant would violate his fiduciary duty as an attorney. The court further explained that the district court did not exceed its authority under the MVRA by awarding restitution more than 90 days after initial sentencing, and Defendant has shown no prejudice from the delayed award. Finally, the court wrote that the MVRA applies in this case where Nike sustained a pecuniary loss directly attributable to those crimes as a result of incurring fees for its attorneys to attend the meeting demanded by Defendant at which he first communicated his extortionate threat.