Martin Shkreli arrives at Federal Court with his attorney Benjamin Brafman in Brooklyn, NY, on July 14, 2016 Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Martin Shkreli and his former lawyer Evan Greebel are back in the headlines as their trial on fraud charges looms in the near future. Federal Judge Kiyo A. Matsumoto ruled that the two defendants should get separate trials in order to safeguard Shkreli’s right to a fair trial, expected to start in June.
Greebel, says the judge, is going to make his own case against Shkreli in an attempt to avoid a guilty verdict. And that will require a split instead of the joint trial the feds were seeking.
The order recaps the litany of federal charges Shkreli and Greebel both face in an indictment that claims the biotech exec lost all the money invested in his hedge funds, lied about it, looted cash for personal use and came up with a scheme to pay off investors with stock in his biotech startup, Retrophin.
Shkreli’s main defense is that he was completely upfront about everything with Greebel, his lawyer for several years, and relied on the attorney to give him proper legal guidance. According to Shkreli, that makes him completely innocent of these charges. Greebel, in turn, is claiming that Shkreli routinely lied to him as well as his investors, and will build his defense around that position.
Ironically, Shkreli became notorious in the biopharma industry just ahead of his arrest on fraud charges because his latest biotech creation, Turing, jacked up the price of Daraprim by more than 5000% soon after he bought the therapy. But none of these charges have anything to do with price gouging on a drug, which is completely legal though highly unpopular these days.
Matsumoto wasn’t entirely convinced by all the arguments used by the two defense teams involved. According to the judge:
A joint trial would place on Shkreli an unfair and heavy burden in defending himself against both the government and Greebel. Severance is granted because of the stated intention of Greebel’s counsel, in his declaration (ECF No. 159) and at oral argument, that Greebel’s defense team will act as a second prosecutor against Shkreli, by arguing that Shkreli is guilty and that Greebel is, himself, just another victim of Shkreli’s fraud.
The fact that all the attorneys signaled plans to make frequent challenges to the government’s case also helped persuade the judge to separate the trials, citing the possibility that a flurry of nonstop challenges from both sides would confuse jurors charged with assessing a complex case.
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