NEW YORK — Martin Shkreli says his caustic social media rants shouldn’t be taken so seriously.
The attorney for the convicted ex-biotech CEO argued in court papers filed Tuesday that his client’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 posting fell into a category of political hyperbole that includes the Republican president’s remark on the campaign trail that “Second Amendment people” could take matters into their own hands if Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate, had the chance to appoint judges favoring gun control, the papers argued.
The attorney was responding to government filings last week that argued Shkreli’s behavior was threatening enough to put the so-called “Pharma Bro” behind bars 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 many social media followers would think he was serious.
A hearing on the demand to revoke Shkreli’s bail was set for Wednesday in federal court in Brooklyn.
The former pharmaceutical CEO 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 investors got their original investments back and even made hefty profits.
Since his 2015 arrest, Shkreli has repeatedly frustrated his lawyers by courting bad publicity they now fear could hurt his chances for leniency. Along with the Clinton flap, reports surfaced earlier this month that he was trying to auction off what he claims is a one-of-a-kind Wu-Tang Clan album he bought for $2 million.
The 34-year-old defendant faces up to 20 years in prison, though the term could be much lower under sentencing guidelines.