Federal prosecutors want to gag former hedge fund manager and “pharma bro” Martin Shkreli as he is facing multiple counts of securities fraud. Prosecutors insist that Shkreli is being intentionally disruptive, insulting the prosecution team with his own agenda of rhetoric. Shkreli, who is often seen making faces, was even asked during congressional testimony if he was listening after he appeared to be looking around the room rather than at the speaking senator. But as a result of the negative comments, prosecutors have written a letter to U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto asking that Shkreli be silenced or, as another option, that the jury be semi-sequestered.
But federal prosecutors in Shkreli’s securities fraud case are not the first people who have wanted to gag Shkreli as he seems to bring out the worst in many people. Shkreli appeared at an event on campus at the University of California, Davis, with Milo Yiannopoulos that was billed as “A Twitter Villain Extravaganza.” Both men are staunch Trump supporters and students on campus blocked the venue, causing the university president to cancel. But Shkreli wasn’t able to get off campus before a protester hit him in the face with a pile of dog poop. The students did not only object to Shkreli’s political views but also his hand in the recent bump-up in the price of a critical cancer drug from $13.50 to $750 per pill. An ABC camera caught the moment of impact when after chants likened Shkreli to poop, they hit him with it.
And Martin Shkreli hasn’t only tampered with the price of cancer drugs as he has also raised the price of HIV drugs by 5,000 percent, but that is not the reason he is currently in court. Shkreli is the defendant in federal court on charges that he participated in a five-year campaign to defraud investors in two hedge funds and the biopharmaceutical company Retrophin. Shkreli is being accused of lying about his credentials and doctoring documents including false performance reports. Prosecutors claim that it was all a lie.
Shkreli has been told by his lawyers to stay quiet since he was indicted in 2015, but this is a direction Shkreli cannot seem to abide. Along with his pal Milo Yiannopoulos, Shkreli has been banned from Twitter, but that hasn’t stopped him from pleading his case in the public arena. Shkreli is said to now be tweeting under another name, @BLMBro, in order to comment on the trial and possibly taint the jury pool.
But according to prosecutors, the final straw came when Shkreli showed up unexpectedly to an overflow courthouse to talk to the press about his case, calling those prosecuting him as the “junior varsity” of prosecutors. He also said that the world blames him for everything. In the letter to the judge, prosecutors explained why they want Shkreli gagged.
“With Shkreli trying the case through the press, the risk of jury interference and a mistrial are becoming manifest. He is roaming the halls of the courthouse commenting to reporters on the evidence at trial, his personal views on the credibility of witnesses and his defense strategy — all of which the reporters are, understandably, then discussing amongst themselves and with members of the public.”
But the lawyer for Shkreli, Benjamin Brafman, says that prosecutors want to gag Shkreli as a ploy.
“Mr. Shkreli’s comments were not intended to disrupt the proceedings. Rather they are defensive measures taken by him in response to what he perceives to be highly prejudicial one-sided coverage of his trial.”
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But Brafman is said to be fighting an uphill battle defending Shkreli on a number of fronts, including the perception that Shkreli is glib and entitled which is made worse by the faces that Shkreli has made in and out of court. Brafman has had to go as far as to tell the court that his client is odd.
“Is he strange? Yes. Will you find him weird? Yes. But [his investors] used his genius and made millions…. Despite his flaws and dysfunctional personality, Martin Shkreli is brilliant beyond words.”
But Brafman says he can’t help it.
“As Lady Gaga would say: He was born this way.”
The judge has yet to rule on the prosecution request to have Shkreli gagged, but a response is expected tomorrow.
Do you think the judge will gag Martin Shkreli?
[Featured Image by Drew Angerer/Getty Images]