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Michael Avenatti, former lawyer for Stormy Daniels, arrested in California

Credit: REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti was arrested on Tuesday on accusations that he violated the terms of his release from custody while awaiting trial on charges that he sought to extort millions of dollars from Nike Inc., federal prosecutors said.

By Dan Whitcomb

Jan 14 (Reuters) - Celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti was arrested on Tuesday on accusations that he violated the terms of his release from custody while awaiting trial on charges that he sought to extort millions of dollars from Nike Inc., federal prosecutors said.

Avenatti, 48, whose trial in the Nike NKE.N case is set to start next week, was taken into custody by agents from the Internal Revenue Service, said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles.

Mrozek said that he could not discuss the allegations that led to Avenatti's arrest because the documents had been sealed by a judge. An arrest warrant filed in U.S. District Court in New York does not spell out the accusations.

Avenatti, who gained international notoriety representing adult film star Stormy Daniels in a legal battle with U.S. President Donald Trump, was scheduled to appear in federal court in Santa Ana on Wednesday.

Earlier Tuesday, a federal judge in New York rejected a request by Avenatti to delay his trial in the Nike case after his lawyers complained that prosecutors had overwhelmed them with a "document dump" of new material.

Avenatti is accused of threatening to make public a client's claims that Nike had made improper payments to families of college basketball recruits unless the sportswear company paid him to conduct an internal investigation for $15 million to $25 million, and pay an additional $1.5 million to the client.

Avenatti has pleaded not guilty. Nike has denied any wrongdoing.

The high-profile lawyer also faces an April 21 trial in Manhattan over accusations he cheated Daniels out of proceeds from a book contract, and a May 19 trial in Santa Ana, California over allegations of defrauding clients out of millions of dollars and lying to the Internal Revenue Service.

He has also pleaded not guilty to those charges.

Avenatti became a prominent critic of Trump and frequent cable TV guest while representing Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.

Daniels sued Trump over a nondisclosure agreement that in the weeks before the 2016 U.S. presidential election kept her from discussing her claims that they had had an extramarital affair 10 years earlier.

Avenatti faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted on the California charges and up to 20 years in the New York indictment.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb Additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Culver City, California. Editing by Gerry Doyle)

((Dan.Whitcomb@thomsonreuters.com; 213-955-6779; Reuters Messaging: dan.whitcomb.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

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