A troubled genius working to save lives or a compulsive liar who defrauded investors? A US jury heard closing arguments Thursday in the securities fraud trial of Martin Shkreli, a pharmaceutical executive dubbed “The Most Hated Man in America.”
The 34-year-old, who hunched over in his chair and fiddled with his hair, risks up to 20 years in prison if convicted of lying to investors and running a Ponzi-like scheme across multiple firms.
He stands accused of an eight-count indictment for allegedly stealing $11 million in stock from his first pharmaceutical company Retrophin to pay off investors who lost money in two of his hedge funds.
Assistant US attorney Alixandra Smith spent nearly four hours painstakingly reviewing evidence presented at the month-long trial and walking jurors through testimony from investors in minute detail.
“There’s just really overwhelming evidence the defendant lied to investors,” the federal prosecutor told the jury in Brooklyn, New York.
“We have shown the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt on all eight of the crimes on which he has been charged.”
Smith said the defendant lied to investors for years, chopping and changing his story depending on what he thought they wanted to hear.
To one investor from whom he was trying to get $1 million, he allegedly lied about graduating from Columbia University.
To another, he claimed to have been too poor to graduate.
To a third, he claimed to have dropped out of college “just like Steve Jobs,” Smith said.
Shkreli declined to testify and his lawyers — led by star defense attorney Ben Brafman, whose roster of famous clients include disgraced former IMF boss Dominique Strauss-Kahn — called no witnesses.
In a sweeping summation complete with rhetorical flourishes and a bag of potato chips as a prop, Brafman proved his mettle as one of the most celebrated criminal defense attorneys of his generation.
He portrayed his client as a troubled genius who lived like a hermit in his office in a sleeping bag for two years as he single handedly built a successful pharmaceutical out of nothing, working to make returns for wealthy investors, treat sick children and cure diseases.
“Martin never intended to defraud anyone,” said Brafman. Working at a super-human pace, he may have made mistakes but he was “not a Ponzi guy” who took money to buy Cadillacs and yachts.
“Everyone ultimately got repaid… because he saw to it that they did not lose their investments,” Brafman said, branding witnesses brought by the government to testify against his client as liars.
He quoted associates who called Shkreli “stunningly brilliant,” “a true genius” and a “visionary” despite admitting his client had “impossible” people skills and routinely aggravated associates.
He quoted one witness who compared Shkreli to the Dustin Hoffman character in Oscar-winning 1988 movie “Rain Man,” and said he battled depression and anxiety.
Brafman, who is to continue his summation on Friday, urged jurors to use their common sense and keep an open mind, cautioning that it was “a very, very tough decision” to convict anyone.
Shkreli is charged with securities fraud, securities fraud conspiracy and wire fraud conspiracy for orchestrating three inter-related schemes to defraud investors and misappropriate assets.
The ex-boss of Turing Pharmaceuticals, he is best known for increasing the price of HIV drug Daraprim from $13.50 a pill to $750 overnight, earning him the label “the most hated man in America.”
While that incident has nothing to do with his securities fraud trial, his notoriety was such that proceedings were initially delayed over difficulties in finding an impartial jury.
Shkreli smirked through a congressional hearing that scrutinized his actions in 2016, and has since earned a reputation for an extravagant, self-publicizing lifestyle.
He resigned from Turing shortly after his indictment in December 2015, after which he was released from prison on bond.
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