Seething jurors, Lady Gaga quotes, uncontrollable giggling: the first day of former pharmaceutical CEO Martin Shkreli’s fraud trial that could see the so-called “Pharma Bro” spend up two decades behind bars got off to a characteristically weird start.
Benjamin Brafman, 34-year-old Shkreli’s high-powered attorney, offered an emotional and captivating opening argument peppered with pop star quotes, CNBC reported.
“Is he strange? Yes. Will you find him weird? Yes,” Brafman said, insisting that his client “never intended to defraud anyone and that no one in this case was defrauded.”
Characterizing Shkreli as “brilliant beyond words” and a misunderstood genius who never meant to do any harm, Brafman quoted, “As Lady Gaga would say: He was born this way. You wanna call him names? Call him names. Just don’t call him guilty. Because he’s not guilty.” Shkreli could reportedly be seen nodding in agreement.
Shkreli faces securities fraud charges for allegedly lying to investors in a hedge fund that he ran, but he first rose to infamy back in 2015 for hiking up the price of a drug exclusively used by people suffering from AIDS.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Karthik Srinivasan argued that Shkreli swindled investors out of over $11 million between 2009 and 2014 by engineering a Ponzi-style scheme that hinged on his masquerading as “a Wall Street genius.”
“He took investors’ money based on lies and continued to lie to them for months after he had lost all the money, he said, claiming that he then took $10 million from the drug company he headed in order to pay his investors back.
“In reality, he was just a con man,” Srinivasan declared.
Prosecutors went through 300 candidates before they could finally settle on 12 jurors and 6 alternates who did not already have preconceived opinions about Shkreli. As potential picks described their dislike for Shkreli – with one going so far as to call him “evil” – the accused merely laughed.