Securities fraud got Martin Shrkeli convicted. Calling for a strand of Hillary Clinton’s hair got him jailed.
The former pharmaceuticals company CEO will remain in jail until his sentencing on a trio of fraud counts, Judge Kiyo A. Matsumoto ruled on Wednesday, saying he felt compelled to side with the government and deny Mr Shkreli bail in light of the “danger” inherent in Mr Shkreli’s Facebook post offering a $5,000 reward for grabbing a strand of the former Democratic nominee’s hair.
While Mr Shkreli and his attorneys sought to characterize the post as satire, prosecutors wrote that “there is a significant risk that one of his many social media followers or others who learn of his offers through the media will take his statements seriously”. They argued that the Secret Service had to fortify its efforts to protect Ms. Clinton as a result of Mr Shkreli’s statement.
In deciding to keep Mr Shkreli locked up until his sentencing, Judge Mastumoto batted down an apology from Mr Shkreli, who apologized for “poor judgment” but said he “never intended to cause alarm or promote any act of violence whatsoever” in a letter to the court, and of his attorney Benjamin Brafman, who argued in a separate letter that “his constitutionally-protected political hyperbole does not rise to the level of making a ‘danger to the community’”.
The judge said the offer for Ms Clinton’s hair was “solicitation of an assault” that is not protected by the First Amendment, and there was “a risk someone may take” Shkreli up on his offer, according to wire reports.
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Dubbed the “Pharma Bro” by his critics, Mr Shkreli became a reviled symbol of greed for acquiring the rights to the drug Damapril and then drastically hiking its price, from $13.50 to $750 per pill. He was widely vilified for the move and even summoned to testify before Congress, where he refused to testify amid blistering criticism from lawmakers – whom he promptly denounced as “imbeciles” on Twitter.
He was subsequently found guilty on two counts of securities fraud and one count of conspiracy for his management of investment funds, charges that were unrelated to the drug-pricing saga.
The ever-defiant Shkreli has said he feels “exonerated” despite his conviction and thinks there’s a “50-50 chance” he won’t face any punishment.
The spotlight on Mr Shkreli reflected mounting public concern over spiraling pharmaceutical costs, an issue that has climbed the political agenda in recent years.
On the same day that Mr Shkreli was sent to jail, California lawmakers sent Gov. Jerry Brown a heavily contested bill that would require pharmaceutical companies to share more information on drug pricing. Pharmaceutical companies poured millions into defeating a 2016 ballot initiative that sought to rein in costs and drew an endorsement from Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.