NEW YORK — Federal prosecutors are asking a Brooklyn judge to silence Martin Shkreli, the boisterous former hedge-fund manager and pharmaceutical-industry executive who is on trial facing eight counts of securities fraud.
Shkreli has “embarked on a campaign of disruption,” prosecutors said in a letter to U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto late Monday. Shkreli should be silenced or the jury semi-sequestered, the prosecutors said.
Shkreli is best known for raising the price of a drug used by HIV patients 5,000 percent, but he is on trial for what prosecutors say was a five-year campaign to defraud investors in two hedge funds and the biopharmaceutical company Retrophin, all of which he founded. Shkreli told investors that he had a successful track record as a hedge-fund manager and sent them false performance reports and backdated documents to cover up his losses, prosecutors allege. That was all a lie, prosecutors have said.
Since being indicted in late 2015, Shkreli has struggled to abide by his attorney’s advice that he remain silent. Shkreli continues to be active on social media, holding live chats on Facebook. After being banned from Twitter earlier this year, prosecutors say, he has started tweeting under a new account, @BLMBro, where he has been commenting on the trial. His notoriety made it difficult to find jurors who said they didn’t already dislike the Brooklyn native.
But for prosecutors, the breaking point appears to have been a surprise visit Shkreli, 34, made last week to an overflow courthouse room filled with reporters. During the visit, Shkreli criticized the prosecution team from the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn, mocking them as the “junior varsity” to the federal prosecutors in Manhattan. “I think the world blames me for almost everything,” he said before being called out of the room by his attorney.
“With Shkreli trying the case through the press, the risk of jury interference and a mistrial are becoming manifest,” prosecutors said in their letter to the judge. “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.”
In a letter asking the judge to reject prosecutors’ call for Shkreli to be gagged, Shkreli’s attorneys said the former hedge-fund manager has been “baited” by the media. “Mr. Shkreli’s comments were not intended to disrupt the proceedings,” said Shkreli attorney Benjamin Brafman. “Rather they are defensive measures taken by him in response to what he perceives to be highly prejudicial one-sided coverage of his trial.”
Shkreli’s “comments are the somewhat natural, though unfortunate, consequence of a young man with a demonstrated history of significant anxiety being at the center of a supremely difficult time in his life,” Brafman said.
Shkreli’s trial, which is expected to take up to six weeks, is scheduled to resume Wednesday when Matsumoto could address prosecutors’ complaints. Shkreli faces up to 20 years in prison.
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