Shkreli is a per­se­cuted ge­nius, says lawyer

Marlborough Express - - WORLD -

UNITED STATES: Martin Shkreli’s lawyer did not run from his client’s trou­bled public im­age, de­scrib­ing him as a mis­un­der­stood ge­nius, as he be­gan his de­fence in the former drug com­pany ex­ec­u­tive’s se­cu­ri­ties fraud trial yes­ter­day.

‘‘You may not like Martin Shkreli,’’ Ben­jamin Braf­man said in his open­ing ar­gu­ment in Brook­lyn fed­eral court, ‘‘and you may have rea­sons to hate Martin Shkreli, but that is not a ba­sis on which to con­vict.’’

Shkreli’s rep­u­ta­tion stems largely from his de­ci­sion to raise the price of the drug Dara­prim, which is used to treat peo­ple with HIV-Aids, to US$750 a pill from US$13.50 when he was chief ex­ec­u­tive of Tur­ing Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals in 2015. The move sparked wide­spread out­rage among pa­tients and Amer­i­can law­mak­ers.

How­ever, Braf­man re­minded ju­rors that Shkreli was ‘‘not on trial for all of the other stuff that made him a house­hold name’’.

In­stead, Shkreli, 34, is fac­ing charges over to his ten­ure as an ex­ec­u­tive at drug com­pany Retrophin and hedge fund MSMB Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment be­tween 2009 and 2012.

Be­fore Braf­man’s open­ing ar­gu­ment, As­sis­tant US At­tor­ney Karthik Srini­vasan told ju­rors that Shkreli lied about MSMB’s fi­nances to lure in­vestors, con­cealed dev­as­tat­ing losses and re­paid them with cash and stock stolen from Retrophin, which he founded in 2011.

‘‘They got their money back only be­cause the de­fen­dant stole from a public com­pany, and it even­tu­ally turned out to be suc­cess­ful,’’ Srini­vasan said.

Shkreli was ousted Retrophin’s CEO in 2014.

Braf­man, in his open­ing state­ment, con­ceded that Shkreli’s state­ments to in­vestors were not al­ways ‘‘100 per­cent ac­cu­rate’’.

How­ever, he said the wealthy in­vestors trusted Shkreli de­spite know­ing about his er­ratic per­son­al­ity, and were re­warded in the end, reap­ing mil­lions of dol­lars in re­turns.

‘‘Martin Shkreli didn’t lie to them,’’ Braf­man said. ‘‘They were bet­ting on Martin Shkreli’s ge­nius.’’

Braf­man de­scribed Shkreli as a so­cially awk­ward ‘‘nerd’’ ex­ploited by peo­ple around him, a sharp con- as trast with the vil­lain­ous ‘‘Pharma Bro’’ per­sona de­picted in the me­dia.

The lawyer told ju­rors that Retrophin board mem­bers bul­lied Shkreli, sug­gest­ing he was autis­tic and ques­tion­ing his sex­u­al­ity, and even­tu­ally forced him out be­cause they were em­bar­rassed by him.

‘‘Martin Shkreli came to work in T-shirts and sneak­ers and wore a stetho­scope and bunny slip­pers, and they couldn’t han­dle it,’’ Braf­man said.

‘‘You want to call him names, you can call him names,’’ he said. ‘‘Just don’t call him guilty, be­cause he’s not guilty.’’

Retrophin spokesman Chris Cline said the com­pany would ’’let the facts speak for them­selves in court’’. – Reuters

PHOTO: REUTERS

Martin Shkreli was ex­ploited by the peo­ple around him, his lawyer says.

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