Prosecutors say California attorney Michael Avenatti was over $15 million in debt when he tried to extort up to $25 million from Nike.
But Avenatti's lawyers say the money he legally requested to conduct an internal probe of the sportswear giant was a bargain.
Both sides made the assertions in court papers filed late Tuesday in advance of a Jan. 22 criminal trial in Manhattan.
For Avenatti, it is the first of three scheduled trials in the next five months. He has denied all charges. They include charges in New York that he defrauded ex-client porn star Stormy Daniels out of proceeds of a book deal and charges in Los Angeles that he defrauded clients of millions of dollars.
In the California case, the State Bar says Avenatti should be prevented from practicing law because he poses a threat to clients and the public if he continues to perform legal work. In response, Avenatti has called the proceedings a "dog and pony show" and a "complete joke."