Fri, Sep 15, 2017 - Page 7 News List

Judge jails ‘Pharma Bro’ on violation of bail over threats against Clinton

AP, NEW YORK

A judge on Wednesday jailed former pharmaceuticals company CEO Martin Shkreli after finding that he violated his bail on a securities fraud conviction with a social media posting she agreed posed a threat to former US secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Defense attorneys had argued at a hearing in federal court in Brooklyn that the post by Shkreli, offering a US$5,000 bounty to anyone who could grab him one of Clinton’s hairs while she is on a book tour, was political satire.

However, US District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto did not see the humor, saying the offer could be taken seriously by Clinton detractors.

The Clinton offer could be viewed as “a solicitation of an assault,” the judge said, before revoking Shkreli’s US$5 million bail. “This is not protected by the First Amendment... There’s a risk that somebody may take him up on it.”

The government had told the judge that the message had alarmed the US Secret Service detail protecting Clinton, a former presidential candidate and first lady.

It also argued that the incident fit a pattern of veiled threats against female journalists who rebuffed Shkreli’s social media advances and taunts aimed at prosecutors.

On Monday, Shkreli, often called the “Pharma Bro,” wrote to the court apologizing for his behavior, saying: “I am not a violent person.”

However, for the judge, it was too little, too late.

“He doesn’t have to apologize to me,” Matsumoto said. “He should apologize to the government, the Secret Service and Hillary Clinton.”

Shkreli watched in silence as the hearing unfolded and sometimes put his head down and appeared to scribble notes. After the judge’s ruling, he remained expressionless as deputy US marshals led him out a side door of the courtroom without handcuffing him.

Defense attorney Ben Brafman said outside the court that he was disappointed by the judge’s decision.

“We believe the court arrived at the wrong decision, but she’s the judge and right now we will have to live with this decision,” he said.

Shkreli, who is best known for hiking up the price of a life-saving drug and for trolling his critics on social media, was found guilty last month on charges, unrelated to the price-fixing scandal, that he cheated investors in two failed hedge funds he ran.

The defense had argued that investors got their original investments back and even made hefty profits.

Since his 2015 arrest, Shkreli’s attorneys have tried and failed to get him to tone down online antics they feared would taint his jury and, after his conviction, hurt his chances for a lenient sentence by giving the court the impression he was not taking his situation seriously.

Along with the Clinton flap, reports surfaced that he was trying to auction off what he claims is a one-of-a-kind Wu-Tang Clan album he bought for US$2 million.

For now, Shkreli is to await his sentencing on Jan. 16 next year at a federal jail in an industrial part of Brooklyn instead of his Manhattan apartment, which was a familiar backdrop for his live-streamed bluster.

He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, although the term could end up being shorter under federal sentencing guidelines.

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