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Martin Shkreli wants new lawyers for criminal case

Martin Shkreli is just saying no to that "pharma bro" nickname — and to his own criminal defense team.

Shkreli, the controversial former pharmaceutical executive who is facing federal securities fraud charges, is looking to hire new defense attorneys for that case, according to a newly filed court document in New York City. And a judge on Tuesday afternoon gave him two weeks to do just that.

Martin Shkreli departs U.S. Federal Court after an arraignment and his being charged on a federal indictment filed in Brooklyn on Dec. 17, 2015.
Lucas Jackson | Reuters
Martin Shkreli departs U.S. Federal Court after an arraignment and his being charged on a federal indictment filed in Brooklyn on Dec. 17, 2015.

Shkreli's current lawyers revealed his intention in a letter Monday that asked Brooklyn federal court Judge Kiyo Matsumoto to postpone a hearing in the case that's currently scheduled for Wednesday.

Shkreli, 32, is charged in that criminal case with looting the pharma firm Retrophin, which he previously ran, in order to pay off investors in his hedge fund, who were themselves allegedly defrauded. The pharma whiz kid, who denies the charges, currently is free on $5 million bond, which is secured by an E-Trade brokerage account that had $45 million in it as of Jan. 6.

"Mr. Shkreli has indicated that he wishes to replace our firm as counsel and is in the process of retaining new counsel," his lawyers, Marcus Asner and Baruch Weiss of the firm Arnold & Porter, wrote the judge.

"We respectfully request a two-week continuance of the scheduled conference so that Mr. Shkreli can finalize his engagement of new counsel and we can properly transition the matter to the new attorneys."

The lawyers noted that, "The need to request an adjournment arose over the course of this holiday weekend."

Shkreli's current lawyers did not say in the letter why he wants to replace them.

"No comment," Shkreli wrote in an email when CNBC asked about the situation.

His current lawyers have not responded to a request for comment.

Matsumoto approved the request to a continuance, and set the next hearing for Feb. 3, according to a notification posted on the federal court system's website.

Shkreli achieved widespread notoriety in September after his new company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, raised the price of a decades-old drug known as Daraprim by more than 5,000 percent. Daraprim, which is used to treat a parasitic condition seen in patients with HIV and in pregnant women, went from costing $13.50 per pill to $750 per pill, overnight.

Shkreli resigned as Turing's CEO on the heels of his arrest in mid-December on federal criminal charges — which had nothing to do with the Daraprim price increase. He also was fired as chief executive of KaloBios Pharmaceuticals, a small company in which Shkreli last fall had acquired a large stake.

Shkreli's unapologetic defense of the price hike last fall, his bombastic demeanor on Twitter and other social media, and his pugnacious response to critics had all earned him the sobriquet "pharma bro."

In an interview with Fox 5 New York that ran this past weekend, Shkreli rejected that nickname, even as he admitted his antics had played a role in supporting its use.

"I'm not a 'pharma bro,' right?" Shkreli told the TV station, according to an online story about the interview.

"This is a name that got started when there was a picture I took that was meant to be ironic of me in these sunglasses and listening to a rap song, making sort of a funny hand signal," Shkreli told the station. "And the reason I took the picture was, I'm never like that. We take photos when we're doing unusual things."

Shkreli also said: "I think ... for most people the hate is sort of this quick reaction. ... It's something they're looking for. They're looking for someone to hate, and if I fit that mold I almost feel I'm serving some sort of utility for them to feel that hate for me."

He also dismissed federal prosecutors' case against him.

"It's all fictitious," Shkreli said.