NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Jury selection started in Brooklyn in the fraud trial of former pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli.
“I’m excited,” Shkreli said of the trial in a brief phone call last week to The Associated Press. “I can’t wait.”
Federal prosecutors say Shkreli, who sparked outrage in 2015 when he increased the price of a life-saving drug used by AIDS patients from $13 to $750, cheated investors out of millions in a Ponzi scheme.
More than 100 potential jurors are being questioned about the case. Shkreli spent much of the day with his chin resting in the palm of his hand, WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reported.
Opening statements could begin as early as Tuesday.
Though Shkreli’s notoriety came from Daraprim, the federal securities fraud case is unrelated.
Prosecutors say that after Shkreli lost millions of dollars through bad trades through his side business hedge fund, he looted a second pharmaceutical company for $11 million to pay them back. The defense has argued that he had good intentions.
The defense has floated the possibility that it would put Shkreli on the witness stand to try to highlight how he grew up in a working-class Albanian family in Brooklyn, taught himself chemistry, interned at a financial firm founded by CNBC’s Jim Cramer and struck out on his own to become a rising star in biotechnology startups. He wanted to develop new life-saving drugs after seeing “several classmates and other children he knew struck down by debilitating disease,” court papers say.
Prosecutors call it a ploy to portray the boyish-looking Shkreli as “a Horatio Alger-like figure who, through hard work and intelligence, is in a position to do great things if only the jury would ignore the evidence and base its verdict on sympathy.” The real Shkreli was a con man often undone by his own mouth, they say.
The government has cited claims by one of Shkreli’s former employees that Shkreli harassed his family in a dispute over shares of stock.
“I hope to see you and your four children homeless and will do whatever I can to assure this,” Shkreli wrote the employee’s wife, according to court filings.
Prosecutors also used his boasts about some of his purchases of eccentric collectibles to undermine efforts to reduce his bail from $5 million to $2 million. If he needed to raise cash to pay legal fees and back taxes, they argued, why not sell the one-of-a-kind Wu-Tang Clan album that he brought for $2 million or his Nazi-era Engima code-breaking machine?
Also cited were his offers to pay a $100,000 bounty for finding the killer of a Democratic National Committee staffer and $40,000 in tuition for a Princeton student who solved a math problem he posed during a guest lecture at the school earlier this year.
If convicted, the 34-year-old could spend up to 20 years in prison.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)