Martin Shkreli appeared in a New York federal court Monday for the start of his securities fraud trial—and was quickly declared guilty of price gouging by potential jurors.
Shkreli is facing eight counts of securities and wire fraud in connection to an alleged Ponzi-like scheme involving one of his old pharmaceutical companies, Retrophin. But the ex-CEO is infamous for something completely different: raising the price of a life-saving medication given to infants and people with HIV/AIDS by more than 5,000 percent overnight as CEO and founder of Turing Pharmaceuticals. Outrage over that unrelated move spilled into the courtroom today and stands to slow progress of the fraud trial.
In interviews with Judge Kiyo Matsumoto, potential jurors called Shkreli “evil” and “the face of corporate greed in America,” CNBC reports. One potential juror said, “He’s a snake.” Another admitted, “I have total disdain for the man.” One potential juror blamed Shkreli for the skyrocketing price of EpiPens, which are made by Mylan, a pharmaceutical company that has no connection with Shkreli.
All the admittedly biased potential jurors were excused, as were many others who simply had scheduling conflicts. By lunchtime, no jurors had been seated.
The colorful first day in court and the hampered progress may offer a glimpse of what is to come with the attention-seeking defendant. The trial is expected to take about four to six weeks. But as Shkreli’s defense attorney Benjamin Brafman noted at an earlier pre-trial hearing, Shkreli “travels to the beat of a very unique drummer.”
Brafman had advised Shkreli to keep quiet as he awaited the trial—he was charged and released on $5 million bail in December 2015. However, Shkreli has continued to talk with reporters and be active on social media. Earlier this year, he was banned from Twitter for harassing a journalist. In a recent live stream, Shkreli said that he was “so innocent, the jury, judge, and the prosecution are gonna give me an apology.”
Shkreli and his former counsel Evan Greebel are charged with allegedly defrauding investors of hedge funds that Shkreli formerly managed. They are also charged with siphoning $11 million in assets from Shkreli’s former pharmaceutical company, Retrophin. Brafman intends to argue in court that Shkreli lacked the requisite criminal intent to defraud investors and relied on his trusted counsel, Greebel.