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Judge to hear arguments on whether to lock up ‘Pharma Bro’

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Martin Shkreli was interviewed by Maria Bartiromo during her “Mornings with Maria Bartiromo” program on the Fox Business Network, in New York, Aug. 15.

NEW YORK >> A judge is set to hear arguments about whether the provocative online antics of former pharmaceuticals company CEO Martin Shkreli are bad enough to put him behind bars.

The hearing before U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto on a government demand to revoke the convicted Shkreli’s bail was scheduled for today in federal court in Brooklyn.

A defense attorney argued in court papers filed Tuesday that Shkreli’s recent offer to pay a $5,000 bounty for securing a lock of Hillary Clinton’s hair while she’s on a book tour was merely a tasteless joke comparable to some of President Donald Trump’s derisive comments, not a threat worthy of putting him behind bars.

“Indeed, in the current political climate, dissent has unfortunately often taken the form of political satire, hyperbole, parody or sarcasm,” wrote the lawyer, Ben Brafman. “There is a difference, however, between comments that are intended to threaten or harass and comments — albeit offensive ones — that are intended as political satire or strained humor.”

The attorney was responding to government filings last week that argued Shkreli’s behavior was threatening enough to jail the so-called Pharma Bro while he awaits sentencing for his securities fraud conviction. Prosecutors said the posting prompted the Secret Service to use more resources because it ran the risk that many of Shkreli’s social media followers would think he was serious.

Shkreli, who is best known for hiking up the price of a life-saving drug and for trolling his critics on social media, was found guilty last month on charges, unrelated to the price-fixing scandal, that he cheated investors in two failed hedge funds he ran. The defense had argued that investors got their original investments back and even made hefty profits.

Shkreli has said he feels “exonerated” despite his conviction and thinks there’s a “50-50 chance” he won’t face any punishment. He chatted with fans on his YouTube channel and sparred with a reporter after last month’s verdict.

“In sum and substance,” he said, “I feel exonerated.”

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