Chapter 7, Part 4: An Avalanche of Evidence vs. a Bag of Ruffles
This is Chapter 7, Part 4 of SMIRK, a serialized memoir of my relationship with “Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli.
Contrary to what much of the peanut gallery on the internet was predicting, jurors in Martin Shkreli’s securities fraud case in the summer of 2017 did not rush to convict him as soon as they had the chance. After closing arguments in late July, they spent almost the entire first week of August deliberating in the Brooklyn federal courthouse.
Martin stood accused of eight crimes. He ended up convicted of only three: two having to do with lying to investors in his hedge funds, which he had essentially admitted to me that he had done; and one having to do with manipulating the price of Retrophin stock, which was linked to him stalking and harassing the wife and children of a former employee, Tim Pierotti.
Given he was a person the internet loved to hate, he was routinely described in the press with vividly negative adjectives, and some prospective jurors had called him a “snake” and a “greedy little man” on first sight, it was a remarkably fair and reasonable verdict. In a sense, it was a victory for the defense. Martin was particularly pleased that jurors acquitted him of a count alleging he stole from his drug company Retrophin — he had always maintained that his creative “fixes” for repaying his investors were legit.
Even though he was still facing as long as 20 years in prison on the charges he was convicted of, he was elated. His display of near-giddiness confused most of the journalists watching him.
“This was a witch hunt of epic proportions,” he declared to a crowd of journalists outside the courthouse. His lead lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, stood beside him, alternating between looking pleased and pained as Martin kept going overboard with hyperbole. “And maybe they found one or two broom sticks. But at the end of the day, we’ve been acquitted of the most important charges.”
Well, they were the most important charges to him, anyway.
Days later, when reporters tracked down jurors, and they apparently realized whose fate they had been deciding (the guy who jacked up drug prices), some regretted their choices and claimed they had been “bullied” by other jurors. (The “bully” they were likely referring to, a former Con Edison procurement specialist named Lois Pounds, came across as strikingly thoughtful and even-handed in her interview with the New York Times, compared with the angry jurors popping off anonymously to the Daily Beast.)