NEW YORK — Federal prosecutors Monday asked a judge to muzzle so-called “Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli for the balance of his ongoing conspiracy and fraud trial.
Raising concern that Shkreli’s in-person and social media criticism and statements about the case risk “tainting the jury,” prosecutors asked U.S. District Court Judge Kiyo Matsumoto to limit Shkreli’s statements outside the Brooklyn courtroom.
As an alternative, prosecutors sought semi-sequestration of the 18 jurors and alternates who were seated last week, in a bid to keep them from hearing and potentially being influenced by any of his comments.
Shkreli prompted the motion last week by making a surprise visit to a courtroom where reporters and the public could view the trial via closed-circuit video and argued that prosecution witness Sarah Hassan was not a “victim” of the alleged fraud. He also ridiculed prosecutors as a “junior varsity” team.
“Unfortunately, despite the assurances of defense counsel prior to trial as well as effort by defense counsel to control Shkreli once the jury was selected and empaneled Shkreli embarked on a campaign of disruption by commenting on trial evidence and witnesses to the press and on social media, and by making a spectacle of himself and the trial directly on the courthouse grounds,” prosecutors Jacquelyn Kasulis, Alixandra Smith and G. Karthik Srinivasan wrote.
“The government is deeply concerned that Shkreli’s statements about the evidence at trial at trial and his personal views of that evidence in the courthouse itself — which are then repeated by other individuals in the courthouse — will inadvertently be overheard by members of the jury during their breaks, and render a fair trial impossible.”
The legal motion represents a potential new snag for a case that required more than two days to select the jury. In part, the delay came about because more than a dozen potential members of the panel voiced bias against Shkreli as the notorious ex-CEO who imposed a 5,000% price hike on a prescription medication used to treat HIV patients and others with weakened immune systems.
In response, Benjamin Brafman, Shkreli’s lead attorney, late Monday launched a blame-the-media argument that said his client simply reacted to some reporters” attempts to “bait” him into “making public statements that we have all worked very hard to avoid.”
Arguing against any gag order, Brafman wrote that Shkreli, exercising freedom of expression in advance of the nation’s 241’s birthday on Tuesday, acted out of anxiety under pressure and had not intended to “disrupt the proceedings.”
“Rather they are defensive measures taken by him in responsive to what he perceives to be highly prejudicial one-sided coverage of his trial,” wrote Brafman. “In any event, we have spoken to Mr. Shkreli and will make every effort to remove this issue from the case.”