Prosecutors ask judge to gag "Pharma Bro" Martin Shkreli

Martin Shkreli, sometimes called “the most hated man in America,” has a penchant for making outrageous public comments that irk and irritate. Now that he’s on trial, federal prosecutors are trying put a stop to it — at least temporarily.

Prosecutors want a judge to make “Pharma Bro” Shkreli stop talking and filed a motion on Monday asking that he and all attorneys in his criminal case be ordered to refrain from making any statements outside court. Shkreli gained national attention when he raised the price of a decades-old lifesaving drug by 5,000 percent and defended the action as a smart business move. Shkreli is now on trial for charges of federal securities fraud.

In the motion, federal prosecutors told U.S. District Court Judge Kiyo Matsumoto that Shkreli has interacted with the media since the jury for his trial was picked, in the courthouse, outside and on digital media. They said his statements risk tainting the jury. Shkreli made a “surprise courthouse rant” to the press during the trial, telling reporters he viewed the prosecution as “junior varsity,” CNBC reported. 

“They blame me for everything,” Shkreli said, according to the publication. “Blame me for capitalism. Blame me for EpiPen.”

The allergy medication EpiPen became the center of a drug-pricing debate after its manufacturer, Mylan, raised the price about 500 percent. Critics view the dramatic price hikes from Mylan and Shkreli’s company as a symptom of a broader problem with pharmaceutical pricing, with some drug companies boosting the price tags on older medications with little competition. 

“Shkreli appears determined to ignore the instructions of defense counsel and to wage his own public relations campaign against the witnesses and the government during the trial,” prosecutors said.

Defense attorney Benjamin Brafman objected to a gag order and said “certain representatives of the press have gone out of their way to try to ‘bait'” Shkreli into making public statements. He said his client is “under enormous pressure that is compounded by his clearly frail emotional state.”

Since his high-profile arrest in late 2015 when he was led into court in a gray hoodie, Shkreli has been free on bail and free to speak his mind. He went on Twitter to label members of Congress “imbeciles” for demanding to know why his company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, raised the price of Daraprim, a drug used to treat toxoplasmosis and HIV, from $13.50 to $750 per pill.

Twitter shut down Shkreli’s account after his fixation on a journalist veered into creepy posts, such as a doctored photo of him in a romantic pose with her. He gave a series of lessons on chemistry and stock market analysis on YouTube. On Facebook, he mused about the possibility of being “unjustly imprisoned,” and last week posted that “CNN = fake news.”

Prosecutors said another alternative could be for the judge to semi-sequester the jury.

His arrest was on charges unrelated to Turing Pharmaceuticals, centering around a pair of failed hedge funds. He has pleaded not guilty.

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