Wednesday, June 28, 2017
Pity the poor judge.
U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto has been tasked with presiding over the trial of Martin Shkreli who is on trial for illegal stock manipulation, not for raising the price of a generic and necessary drug to astronomical levels. However it is the second flaw in his character that is making it impossible to impanel a jury for his trial.
“Our shareholders expect us to make as much money as possible,” Shkreli said during a health-industry summit in 2015, dressed nonchalantly in a hooded sweatshirt and sneakers. “That’s the ugly, dirty truth.”Everybody hates him for his drug pricing policies and can't seem to separate that from his bog standard stock manipulation which will put him away for years. Maybe prosecution should try for a change of venue.
These two images of the Brooklyn native are playing out in federal court this week as Shkreli faces eight charges that could land him in prison for years.
Packed into the second-floor courtroom in Brooklyn, several potential jurors said they had already formed strong opinions of Shkreli. One potential juror told U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto that Shkreli is “the price gouger of drugs. My kids are on some of these drugs.”
Another said, “I know he’s the most hated man in America,” while another asserted that “from everything I’ve read, I believe the defendant is the face of corporate greed in America.” All were excused from the jury.
Shkreli sat a few feet away by himself, intermittently appearing to write on a yellow pad or staring up at the ceiling. Dressed in a gray suit and no tie, he yawned and leaned his head against his arm. In the back row of the courtroom sat his father. During one break, Shkreli greeted friends in the courtroom and warned them to stay away from “fake news.”
The trial is slated to last from four to six weeks, and Matsumoto told potential jurors that it “promises to be interesting and educational.” So far, more than 250 potential jurors have been interviewed, but not a single one had been seated. On Wednesday, the judge and lawyers were interviewing candidates again in hopes of finding 12 jurors and six alternates. If they find enough, opening statements would likely start either late Wednesday or early Thursday.
With news trucks stationed outside and more than a dozen reporters flowing in and out of the courtroom, Shkreli is facing intense media scrutiny. Citing negative news coverage of his client — which included the New York Post front-page headline “Jury of His Jeers, 134 jurors out in ‘Pharma Bro’ trial: They all hate him” — Shkreli’s attorney requested a mistrial, which was denied. He also asked that reporters not be allowed to listen to potential jurors’ voice their opinions about Shkreli, which was also denied.
Federal prosecutors alleged that for five years Shkreli lied to investors in two hedge funds and biopharmaceutical company Retrophin, all of which he founded. After losing money on stock bets he made through one hedge fund, Shkreli allegedly started another and used his new investors’ money to pay off those who had lost money on the first fund. Then, as pressure was building, Shkreli started Retrophin, which was publicly traded, and used cash and stock from that company to settle with other disgruntled investors, prosecutors contend.
But potential jurors appear to be struggling to separate Shkreli’s public persona with the charges he is facing. One juror told the judge that she had been in the health-care field for half her life and knew someone who used the AIDS medication whose price skyrocketed under Shkreli. “I have cried with them,” she said. “I don’t think I could be the right person to sit” on the jury. Even after advised by Matsumoto that Shkreli is not facing charges related to raising drug prices, the potential juror said she couldn’t be impartial and was excused.
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