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Martin Shkreli asks federal judge for permission to speak at Harvard University event

Martin Shkreli
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Martin Shkreli

Martin Shkreli, the controversial pharmaceutical executive and accused securities fraudster, is again asking a judge to let him travel outside New York to speak at a university event.

This time, the 33-year-old Shkreli, who is free on $5 million bond, wants to go to Harvard University to discuss "investing," according to a Facebook post.

In a letter to U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto in Brooklyn, New York, filed in court Wednesday, Shkreli's lawyers say he wants to travel to Massachusetts next Wednesday for a "speaking engagement at Harvard University," and return to New York the following day.

The lawyers said federal prosecutors don't oppose that request, just as they didn't object to his requests last month to travel to two other university speaking events. Neither of those events actually ended up happening, though, because of a backlash about his appearances.

Matsumoto's permission, which ended up being granted Thursday, is needed because Shkreli's travel is restricted as part of the conditions of his release bond, which he posted after being indicted on charges of defrauding his former pharma company Retrophin. Those conditions normally bar Shkreli from traveling outside the confines of New York City, Long Island and several counties north of the city.

The group that asked Shkreli to speak this time is the Harvard Financial Analysts Club.

"Martin has been invited to speak at Harvard and so long as he does not discuss his pending case, it's fine with me," his lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, told CNBC.

"We hope the court will approve his travel request," Brafman said. "Whatever else one might say about ‎Martin, nobody doubts his brilliance. Having a young brilliant man speak to a group of brilliant young men and women is a natural fit."

Shkreli announced his planned appearance at Harvard in a Facebook post last Friday.

"I'll be giving a discussion on investing at Harvard University on February 15th at 8:30pm. Open to students!," that post said.

Matsumoto last month approved Shkreli's prior request to travelto California and New Jersey for speaking gigs at colleges, and to Washington for President Donald Trump's inauguration.

Shkreli's appearance in mid-January at the University of California, Davis, with fellow Internet provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos was canceled after angry protests surrounding the event, which was to be hosted by the Davis College Republicans.

Shkreli actually was in Davis by the time the event was canceled.

He also was planning to speak this Saturday to the Princeton Entrepreneurship Club. But that gig was canceled right after it was announced in mid-January by the club itself after backlash over the event.

"As we began planning this event last year in November, we knew it would be polarizing, as Mr. Shkreli is a widely criticized and controversial figure," the club said in a Facebook post last month. "However, from his recent acts of sexual harassment and atrocious comments on Twitter, and his subsequent suspension from the platform this week, he has definitively shown he is lacking in character and not the type of person E-Club wants to bring to speak or be associated with our organization."

The club was referring to Shkreli's suspension last month by Twitter for harassing a female journalist.

Shkreli has said he believes he was suspended for "being a Republican," and during an interview on Fox Business Network compared his tweet that had shown his image edited in to appear as if he were lounging with the journalist on a couch to something a "12-year-old would hang in his locker of her beautiful face."

Shkreli, on his Facebook page, has been promoting a Feb. 20 event in New York City dubbed "An Evening with Martin Shkreli."

"Martin will discuss investing, healthcare and politics in a presentation/lecture format for one hour and will take questions," an online notice of that event says. "He will do his best to accomodate [sic] photographs. He may play tracks from his unreleased music collection."

The notice calls Shkreli, "one of America's most successful young entrepreneurs."

Shkreli is accused by Brooklyn federal prosecutors of defrauding Retrophin of millions of dollars to repay investors in his hedge fund whom he likewise was accused of ripping off. He has denied the charges, and is expected to go on trial in late June.

Shkreli first gained public notoriety in the summer of 2015 when news broke that his then-new pharma company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, had hiked the price of a drug used to treat a parasitic condition in pregnant women, babies and HIV patients by more than 5,000 percent, from just $13.50 per pill to $750 per pill.

On Wednesday, CNBC reported that Shkreli was involved in a new software company in New York named Godel Systems that is trying to raise $1 million through a debt offering. Another named executive officer and director of the company is Kevin Mulleady, who has been affiliated with Shkreli at at least three prior companies, including his hedge fund, Retrophin and Turing.

When asked about Godel Systems on Thursday, Brafman said, "Godel has nothing to do with pharmaceuticals. Other than that it would be premature to further discuss this project."