Celebrity attorney Michael Avenatti has been arrested in New York and charged with the crime of extortion. Federal prosecutors claim that Avenatti tried to extort millions of dollars from Nike. The former attorney for adult-film star Stormy Daniels allegedly threatened to hold a news conference that would release damaging information about Nike unless the company agreed to pay his client $1.5 million in addition to paying Avenatti $25 million to conduct an internal investigation of the company. The attorney claimed that his client had proof that Nike illegally made payments to top high-school basketball players and their families in order to secure the player's commitments to play for elite college basketball teams. After Avenatti first made the extortion demands, Nike attorneys contacted federal investigators who recorded subsequent phone conversations where Avenatti threatened Nike attorneys. Avenatti was released from jail on a $300,000 bond.
Criminal defense attorney Steve Karimi explains the crime of extortion in Washington and the consequences involved in a felony conviction.
What is Extortion?
While Michael Avenatti is facing more serious federal extortion charges, Washington has its own state extortion laws. The state defines the crime of extortion as acting knowingly to obtain or attempt to obtain by threat, the property or services of another person. The property involved as the subject of the extortion includes money and personal items, while services include labor, professional services, transportation, electronic services, the supplying of hotel accommodations, restaurant services, and entertainment.
A keyword in Washington's definition of an extortion crime is the word threat. The state has its own definition of what constitutes a threat in RCW 9A.04.110. In an extortion case, a threat is a direct or indirect communication made with the intent to cause bodily injury to another person, subject a person to confinement or restraint, or damage someone's property. The definition of the word threat also makes it illegal under state extortion law to accuse a person of a crime, or to expose a secret or publicize an asserted fact, whether true or false, that subjects the person to hatred, ridicule, or contempt.
What is the Punishment for an Extortion Conviction?
Depending on the specific type of threat involved in the crime, extortion can be charged as a first degree or a second-degree felony. A felony is a serious crime and a person convicted of an extortion crime faces harsh sentencing. A punishment of up to ten years in jail and fines of up to $20,000 are possible the sentences for extortion. In addition, a felony conviction can remain on someone's criminal record permanently, appearing in background checks on employment, school, and job applications.
Contract Criminal Defense Attorney Steve Karimi
If you're charged with extortion in Washington, you need an experienced lawyer on your side. There are many attorneys in Seattle, but, as a former prosecutor, Steve Karimi understands extortion laws and has years of experience defending clients against criminal charges. Contact the Law Offices of Steve Karimi at 206-660-6200 for a free consultation 24 hours a day.