“Pharma bro” Martin Shkreli is all set to face a jury of his peers in downtown Brooklyn next week.
A judge heard arguments on all outstanding pre-trial questions relating to Shkreli’s securities fraud case on Monday, including whether to allow prosecutors to introduce a letter in which he threatens an investor’s wife, before ordering lawyers and Shkreli to arrive at 9 a.m. next Monday for jury selection. The trial is expected to last five to six weeks, and Shkreli faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
Shkreli is infamous for his pharmaceutical company’s decision to buy the manufacturer of a life-saving drug, then raising the price from $13.50 per dosage to $750. That’s not what landed him in legal trouble though: Two months after he jacked up the drug’s price, he was indicted for allegedly ripping off investors, and then defrauding his other company to pay them back. But his $4 million defense team suggested Monday that they may argue that Shkreli caused the investors no harm by later compensating them.
“This defendant, whatever he did wrong [to the investors], ultimately made them whole,” Shkreli’s attorney said.
Benjamin Brafman also pleaded with the judge to lessen Shkreli’s bail amount so that he can help pay for trial expenses, adding that it is “cruel and unusual” to make lawyers pay for photocopies and transcripts out of pocket while Shkreli’s bail sits.
But lowering Shkreli’s bail to a still-substantive sum of $2 million, from $5 million, would let him help pay for trial expenses and begin to pay back the IRS, Brafman argued. And he admitted that his Shkreli’s decision to waste $2 million on a single-copy Wu Tang Clan album was “maybe absurd.”
“Our concern is that the defendant is using this as a means to pick and choose which creditors he wants to pay,” prosecutor Alixandra Smith countered, noting that Shkreli has outstanding tax liens as well as other creditors.
Prosecutors want Shkreli to sell assets, like an original World War II-era Enigma cipher machine, before dipping into his bail package.
Judge Kiyo Matsumoto is expected to rule on the request this week, and suggested Shkreli submit more financial information.
Lawyers also argued over whether an irate letter written by Shkreli to an investor’s wife will be admissible in trial. “I hope to see you and your four children homeless and will do whatever I can to assure this,” the letter read in part.
“You’re throwing a hand grenade into this otherwise white-collar criminal case,” Brafman argued.
Notably, defense attorneys also said they don’t plan to invoke a so-called reliance of counsel defense, after the possibility was a key factor in Matsumoto’s decision to separate the trials of Shkreli and former attorney Evan Greebel. Such a defense would have argued that Shrekli acted on the presumably sound advice of his attorney.
Lawyers will seek to select a jury and six alternates from an initial pool of 130 potential jurors. But Matsumoto said that if the group proves insufficient, they will draw on leftover jurors from other pools rather than settling.