Martin Shkreli is more “Rain Man” than Bernie Madoff, his lawyer told a jury on Thursday.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys wrapped up closing arguments in a gruelling last day of a federal trial Thursday, where prosecutors said Shkreli told investors “lies upon lies upon lies” about his alleged role in defrauding investors, then stealing from another of his companies to pay them back. Shkreli, of course, is infamous for hiking the price of a life-saving drug. The 34-year-old pharmaceutical executive faces 20 years in prison if convicted.
Shkreli’s defense lawyer Benjamin Brafman tried to paint him as a misunderstood genius.
“What do you hear from this, every single witness?” Brafman asked. “It’s that there’s something wrong with Martin Shkreli.”
Brafman amplified a characterization of Shkreli as an odd outsider with a genius mind in his final comments to the jury. He cycled through how the prosecution witnesses characterized Shkreli, including one who called him “Rain Man.”
“Martin travels to the beat of his own drummer,” Brafman quoted a witness. “You can’t just ignore the testimony of who Martin Shkreli is from the testimony of government witnesses.”
And while Brafman repeatedly said they weren’t seeking an insanity defense, he did say that the jurors had to take Shkreli’s personality and perception into account when determining whether he had the criminal intent necessary to commit a crime.
“If Martin Shkreli actually believes that what he's saying is true, I submit that rises to the defense of good faith," Brafman said. "Maybe Martin sees things none of us do."
Shkreli is a visionary “who sees things that we don’t,” he later said. “If Martin Shkreli wanted to defraud these people, why did he sleep in his office for two years in a sleeping bag to make [his company] a success?”
"He's really smart, and if he wasn't so smart, we wouldn't be here,” Brafman said.
Shkreli maintained his signature antics during the trial, playing with his hair, smirking, and cleaning his glasses on his jacket. Early in the trial, Shkreli walked into an overflow room for press to give colorful commentary on the trial and journalists covering his case. The judge, prosecutors, and defense attorneys all tried to restrain his conduct. He also began tweeting from a secret Twitter account during the trial.
Judge Kiyo Matsumoto split his trial from that of indicted co-conspirator Evan Greebel after he complained Shkreli’s notoriety would prevent him from getting a fair trial. Indeed, prospective jurors had a lot to say about what they thought of Shkreli.
“I looked right at him, and in my head I said, 'That's a snake,' not knowing who he is,” one woman told Matsumoto.
She was disqualified and the trial concluded at just five weeks, despite the late start because of jury selection.