Fraud-trial judge tells Shkreli to hold tongue while at court
Martin Shkreli’s impromptu trial discussions with reporters at the Brooklyn federal courthouse are over as the judge overseeing the case ordered the former pharmaceutical executive to stop talking about it in and around the building. But he can go on discussing it on the Internet.
Shkreli, on trial on securities-fraud charges, spent about five minutes Friday in a courtroom set up for an overflow crowd, including reporters. He criticized prosecutors and the media while denying he defrauded the first witness in the case. The government argued a gag order was nec-
v essary to prevent Shkreli from causing a mistrial by exposing jurors to his opinions.
“I was shocked that there were these comments,” U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto said at a hearing on Wednesday, where prosecutors sought a complete gag on Shkreli, including his comments on social media about the trial. The judge restricted him from talking “in the courthouse or on perimeter roads.”
Also at Wednesday’s hearing, prosecutors revealed for the first time that Shkreli’s lawyers offered to have him plead guilty at least three times, including a week before the June 26 start of the trial.
“The government and the defense did engage in multiple discussions, each time initiated by the defense,” prosecutor Jacquelyn Kasulis said.
Shkreli’s lawyer Benjamin Brafman said he was doing his
duty to see if the case could be worked out without a trial and his client didn’t initiate any of the talks and rejected the idea of admitting guilt.
“’I would never plead guilty to something I did not do,’” Brafman quoted Shkreli as saying. “‘We’re going to trial.’”
Shkreli, 34, is fighting charges of operating two hedge funds like a Ponzi scheme.
Prosecutors claim he took clients’ money without permission and used it to start Retrophin Inc. Shkreli is also accused of looting $11 million of the drug company’s assets to pay off investors who’d lost money in the funds.
He faces as long as 20 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charges.
Shkreli, who broadcasts much of his life online, also has commented on the trial in Internet videos, his Facebook page and, according to prosecutors, on Twitter, despite having been banned from the site for harassing a journalist. The account @BLMBro, which
Shkreli is alleged to have used, was suspended recently.
Brafman defended Shkreli’s comments to the reporters, saying he had a right to defend himself against an onslaught of negative media coverage. Brafman also insisted a gag order wasn’t necessary.
“So what happened Friday?” the judge asked. “He walks into a press room and he starts talking about the case?”
Brafman said a reporter with a “vendetta,” baited Shkreli. “I hope your honor understands that he’s relatively young.” The lawyer apologized
to the judge and promised it wouldn’t happen again.
The judge still had concerns about potentially exposing jurors to the comments, although she declined to restrict their movements in the court building or to sequester them.
“What is happening, based on your own client’s conduct, there is a danger that those jurors will be exposed,” Matsumoto said. “There is a great risk.”