Just when you thought a weird news day couldn’t possibly get any weirder, it’s being reported that the co-conspirator named in the indictment against lawyer Michael Avenatti on charges of attempting to extort over $20 million from Nike is none other than celebrity lawyer Mark Geragos. The New York Times is reporting that Geragos was present at a meeting on March 19 in New York with Nike lawyers when Avenatti threatened to go public with damaging information just before an earnings call and amid the hyper-attention to sports that occurs during the NCAA basketball tournament.
According to court documents filed on Monday by prosecutors in Manhattan, Avenatti claimed a client of his, a former youth basketball coach had evidence that the shoe-making giant had secretly and improperly transferred funds to college recruits. The prosecutors allege that Avenatti and Geragos threatened to go public with the information and thus damage Nike’s reputation and hurt their bottom line if the company didn’t fork over $22.5 million.
The famed L.A.-based celebrity attorney Geragos recently represented Empire actor Jussie Smollett in his case surrounding allegations he staged an attack on himself, joining his defense team in late February. Geragos has also represented Michael Jackson, initially being hired in the pop singer’s 2003 molestation case before being replaced, as well as representing Winona Ryder and Chris Brown.
But Geragos is perhaps best known for representing former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick in his recent collusion case against the league for allegedly blackballing him during the height of his kneeling protest during the playing of the national anthem prior to games. The NFL recently settled that case, netting Kaepernick a reported $10 million.
Geragos had also met with representatives for Nike prior to his alleged March 19 meeting with Avenatti and Nike lawyers; he was the attorney who represented Kaepernick in his negotiations with the company and helped land the former quarterback the job as the new face of the “Just Do It” ad campaign. Those 2017 and 2018 negotiations put Kaepernick in the enviable position of booking one the highest-paid football endorsement contracts in history and put him back on the map after a couple of years of being sidelined.
The New York Times reported that Geragos had not responded to emails and phone calls asking for comment. Also, when they reached out to Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney in Manhattan, he declined to explain why Geragos hadn’t been arrested while Avenatti had been, given that they are both named as co-conspirators in the charging documents.
Berman did say that the investigation is continuing.