A US judge on Wednesday ordered Martin Shkreli to be jailed while he awaits sentencing for securities fraud, citing a Facebook post in which the former drug company offered a $5,000 reward for a strand of Hillary Clinton’s hair. Shkreli, who had been free on $5 million bail since his December 2015 arrest, was silent and stony-faced as US marshals led out of US District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto’s Brooklyn courtroom.
Matsumoto ruled that Shkreli’s Sept. 4 post, made shortly before Clinton embarked on a book tour, showed he posed a danger to the public. She rejected arguments by Shkreli’s lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, that the post was protected free speech. “This is a solicitation of assault in exchange for money,” the judge said. “That is not protected by the First Amendment.”
Matsumoto rebuffed Brafman’s repeated pleas to reconsider her decision, or at least give Shkreli until Monday to prove he was not a danger. The judge also scheduled Shkreli’s sentencing for Jan. 16. “We are obviously disappointed,” Brafman told reporters outside the courthouse. “We believed that the court arrived at the wrong decision. But she’s the judge, and right now we will have to live with this decision.”
Shkreli, who earned the nickname “Pharma Bro” for exploits that included increasing to the price of a life-saving drug by 5,000 per cent, said in a letter to Matsumoto on Tuesday that the post was meant as satire. Brafman repeated that on Wednesday, but Matsumoto was not convinced. “What’s funny about that?” she demanded.
Shkreli said in the post, since deleted, that he needed the hair to “confirm the sequences I have,” an apparent reference to genetic testing. Shkreli was convicted in August of defrauding investors of two hedge funds he ran, MSMB Capital and MSMB Healthcare. He was acquitted of stealing from a drug company he later founded, Retrophin Inc, to pay them back.
Though the charges carry a maximum sentence of 20 years, Shkreli will likely serve much less, in part because none of the investors lost money. Patients and US lawmakers were outraged in 2015 when Shkreli, then chief executive of Turing Pharmaceuticals, raised the price of anti-infection drug Daraprim by 5,000 per cent. Since his December 2015 arrest, he has clashed frequently with critics on social media. Twitter banned him from its platform in January for harassing a female journalist, another incident prosecutors cited in their motion to revoke his bail.