Biotech and Pharma

Prosecutors seek gag order for pharma bro Martin Shkreli after his courthouse rant

Key Points
  • Shkreli surprised journalists by talking to them at length unprompted FrisY
  • He called federal prosecutors in Brooklyn the "junior varsity"
  • He said one investor who testified against him wasn't a victim because she ended up making four times her money back.
  • "Do I want to exonerate myself? Yes."
Pharma Bro's defense attorney expresses frustration over his talking to press
Pharma Bro's defense attorney expresses frustration over his talking to press

Federal prosecutors late Monday asked a judge to slap a gag order on "Pharma Bro" Martin Shkreli, three days after he blasted them as the "junior varsity" during a surprise courthouse rant to reporters covering his trial.

Those prosecutors said Shkreli's off-the-cuff remarks, made against the desperate wishes of his lawyers, "risks tainting the jury," according to a motion filed in Brooklyn, NY, federal court.

Prosecutors, who believe that Shkreli, 34, has resumed posting on Twitter under a pseudonym despite being barred from the social media platform earlier this year for harassing a female reporter, also want him barred by the judge from tweeting further about the case.

If they don't get the gag order granted, prosecutors want a semi-sequestration of jurors to protect them from hearing or reading Shkreli's comments during his trial on charges of securities fraud.

And they are asking Judge Kiyo Matsumoto to bar his lawyers and prosecutors themselves from making comments to the media about the case.

Pharma executive testifies at Martin Shkreli trial
Pharma executive testifies at Martin Shkreli trial

Their filing cites a video featuring a CNBC reporter asking Shkreli's lawyer Benjamin Brafman how he felt about his client's scathing remarks after court recessed Friday.

Shkreli, who was walking alongside Brafman interjected, "He'll do whatever he wants."

When the reporter asked Shkreli, "You can do whatever you want, Martin?" Shkreli replied, "Yes," according to the prosecutors' motion.


Also attached to their motion were several news articles about Shkreli's comments, as well as suspected tweets under the Twitter handle @BLMBro.

Prosecutors wrote: "The government respectfully moves this Court for an order to limit extrajudicial statements by the defendant Martin Shkreli and counsel for all parties during the pendency of this trial."

"Since the empanelment of the jury, Shkreli has engaged with the press — in apparent contravention of the instructions of his lawyers — in the courthouse itself, directly outside the courthouse and on digital media in a manner that risks tainting the jury," the motion says.

"In order to protect the public's interest in a fair trial in which the jury will reach a verdict based solely on the evidence presented in the courtroom, the defendant should be restrained from further public comment during the pendency of the trial. In addition, or in the alternative, the government seeks semi-sequestration of the jury."

Prosecutors also wrote: "Unfortunately, despite the assurances of defense counsel prior to trial—as well as efforts by defense counsel to control Shkreli—once the jury was selected and empaneled, Shkreli embarked on a campaign of disruption by commenting on trial evidence and witnesses to the press and on social media, and by making a spectacle of himself and the trial directly on the courthouse grounds."

"During the lunch break on June 30, 2017, the defendant paid a highly-publicized visit to reporters and members of the public in the overflow viewing room, which is located on the same floor of the courthouse in which the trial is taking place. Among other things, the defendant repeatedly commented on evidence the jury had heard just the day before and the credibility of testifying witnesses."

Defense attorney Ben Brafman stands at the defense table with Martin Shkreli during his opening statement.
Elizabeth Williams | CNBC

The prosecutors also noted that "in addition to his comments on the evidence and witnesses, Shkreli also made inappropriate personal attacks on current and former prosecutors in this case."

According to the Associated Press, Shkreli lawyer Brafman objects to the prosecutors' request, and said "certain representatives of the press have gone out of their way to try to 'bait'" Shkreli into commenting.

The AP also quoted Brafman as saying Shkreli is "under enormous pressure that is compounded by his clearly frail emotional state."

The prosecution's unusual request, made on the eve of the Fourth of July, came after Shkreli, stunned reporters, his lawyers and others by effectively holding a press conference in a courtroom down the hall from the one where his trial was being held.

Shkreli criticized the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District, which is prosecuting him, as the "junior varsity," claimed he never considered taking a plea deal and said people "blame me for everything."

Shkreli also griped about news headlines regarding his case, and teed off on a young woman who had testified that he had dragged out redeeming her $435,000 investment in his hedge fund for almost a year, saying she wasn't a "victim."

He claimed her investment quadrupled.

And Shrkreli said that several documents entered into evidence, which have raised questions about his honesty with investors, were prepared by others.

"Do I want to exonerate myself?" he asked. "Yes."

"They blame me for everything," Shkreli said, apparently referring to prosecutors and his other critics.

"Blame me for capitalism," Shkreli said. "Blame me for EpiPen."

Several prospective jurors earlier this week were excused from consideration because they incorrectly believed Shkreli had raised the price of the anti-allergy device EpiPen.

In reality, Shkreli drew widespread public scorn in 2015 for hiking the price of an anti-parasite drug named Daraprim by more than 5,000 percent while serving as CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals.

Last Friday, Shkreli only stopped talking and left when his high-powered lawyer Brafman peered in the room and asked, "Martin, can I talk to you for a minute?"

Brafman later said he would prefer Shkreli not conduct any more impromptu press conferences "because sometimes he doesn't have a filter."

"I'm hoping he doesn't do it ever again," Brafman told reporters.

Shkreli is charged with securities fraud in connection with his alleged looting millions of dollars from Retrophin, the publicly traded drug company he founded. Prosecutors claim he used the money to repay investors whom he allegedly defrauded at two hedge funds he had run, in addition to paying off personal debts.