LOS ANGELES (CBSLA/CBS News) – Celebrity Los Angeles attorney Mark Geragos is the co-conspirator listed in the Nike extortion case allegedly perpetrated by fellow L.A. attorney Michael Avenatti, sources told The Associated Press.
Geragos has not been charged in the case. He was only listed in the indictment as a co-conspirator.
A call from CBS2 to Geragos’ office was not immediately returned.
A CNN representative confirmed Monday that Geragos is no longer a contributor to the network but didn’t specify why. His name is no longer listed on CNN’s website as a legal analyst.
Geragos appeared on CNN this month to discuss the case against his client Jussie Smollett, an actor accused of fabricating a racist, anti-gay attack in Chicago.
All this comes after the 48-year-old Avenatti of Century City was arrested Monday on two separate federal cases in California and New York.
Prosecutors in New York charged Avenatti with attempting to extort Nike for $20 million.
According to CBS News, the criminal complaint in the New York case states Avenatti and an alleged unidentified co-conspirator “CC-1” — believed to be Geragos — requested a meeting with Nike’s lawyers in New York last Tuesday, March 19. Two of the attorneys represent Nike as outside counsel at the law firm Boies Schiller Flexner, and one of the attorneys works for Nike in-house.
During the meeting at Geragos’ New York office, Avenatti said he represented the coach of an amateur athletic union (AAU) basketball team in California whose contract with Nike had not been renewed. He said the coach had evidence of Nike employees funneling illegal payments to top high school basketball prospects and their families.
Avenatti allegedly threatened to hold a press conference detailing the allegations to coincide with the beginning of the NCAA basketball tournament and Nike’s quarterly earnings call. The complaint says Avenatti offered to scrap the press conference if Nike paid his client for $1.5 million and hired Avenatti to conduct an internal investigation of the company.
After the meeting later that afternoon, Nike’s attorneys contacted the U.S. Attorney’s Office to report the alleged extortion attempt.
On March 20, the next day, two of the Nike attorneys held a phone call with Avenatti that was recorded by law enforcement. Avenatti allegedly reiterated his demands for payment for him and his client.
“I’m not f—ing around with this, and I’m not continuing to play games,” Avenatti was recorded as saying. “You guys know enough now to know you’ve got a serious problem. And it’s worth more in exposure to me to just blow the lid on this thing. A few million dollars doesn’t move the needle for me. I’m just being really frank with you.”
“I’ll go and I’ll go take $10 billion off your client’s market cap. But I’m not f—ing around,” he said.
On March 21 — the day of the Nike earnings call and the first day of the NCAA tournament — the group met again in New York, with the Nike attorneys recording the meeting. They asked Avenatti and CC-1 whether they could arrange to make a payment without an internal investigation.
“If [Nike] wants to have one confidential settlement and we’re done, they can buy that for $22.5 million and we’re done,” Avenatti is quoted as saying. “Full confidentiality, we ride off into the sunset.”
Less than an hour before he was arrested Monday morning, Avenatti tweeted that he was holding a news conference Tuesday to announce that he had uncovered a college basketball scandal “perpetrated by Nike.”
“Tmrw at 11 am ET, we will be holding a press conference to disclose a major high school/college basketball scandal perpetrated by @Nike that we have uncovered,” Avenatti tweeted. “This criminal conduct reaches the highest levels of Nike and involves some of the biggest names in college basketball.”
Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, Avenatti faces separate bank and wire fraud charges over allegations he embezzled money from a client and defrauded a bank through fake tax returns.