NEW YORK — What’s almost as bad being dubbed the “Most Hated Man in America?” How about being the guy who has to go on trial with him?
Martin Shkreli’s former lawyer, Evan Greebel, is doing all he can to distance himself from the brash former pharmaceutical executive, most recently begging a judge to try him separately on a securities fraud charge.
Shkreli’s notorious antics have created “a bizarre one-of-a-kind spectacle” — designed to win an acquittal like O.J. Simpson — but might ultimately sink Greebel, his lawyer said.
“His conduct creates an unacceptable risk of irreversible prejudice and harm to Mr. Greebel, who wants a jury focused on the evidence and not the tornado of chaos swirling around Mr. Shkreli,” his lawyer, Reed Brodsky, wrote.
The government, which has already said the two should be tried together, has until March 3 to respond.
Shkreli, 33, was vilified in 2015 for raising the price of a potentially life-saving drug by 5,000 percent. The former chief executive of Turing Pharmaceuticals LLC was charged with securities fraud for allegedly fleecing another biotech company, which he started in 2011. Prosecutors said he used $11 million of Retrophin Inc.’s assets to pay off investors who lost money in hedge funds that he ran. Shkreli is also accused of hiding his control of the company’s unrestricted stock to help pay off his debts.
Greebel, a former partner at Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP, is charged with one count of conspiracy for allegedly helping Shkreli hide the money and pay off the investors. Both have pleaded not guilty.
Shkreli’s already blaming Greebel for his troubles. At a recent hearing, Shkreli’s lawyer, Ben Brafman, said his client was faithfully following the lawyer’s advice. Brafman also said Shkreli wants to be tried separately.
“Greebel and his firm billed Shkreli $10 million dollars for their legal work and all Shkreli got in return is an indictment,” Brafman said in an e-mail.
Shkreli and Greebel agree their defenses will be “mutually antagonistic.” Greebel said recently reviewed evidence shows that Shkreli repeatedly lied to him and lawyers at the Katten firm, using them as “pawns in fraudulent schemes” that he and his partners didn’t know about.
Then there are the thousands of news articles and Internet postings about Shkreli, as well as his behavior on social media and in public. While Shkreli has generated an “extraordinary amount of negative notoriety,” Greebel has absolutely had none, Brodsky said. A Google search Wednesday on the term “Martin Shkreli arrested” generated 242,000 results, while “Evan Greebel arrested” comes up with 4,730 results.
“Mr. Shkreli’s post-arrest conduct has been nothing short of bizarre,” Brodsky said in a court filing. “According to his own stated intentions, as corroborated by his well-publicized post-arrest actions, Mr. Shkreli is purposely creating a circus-like atmosphere pursuant to an improper and prejudicial plan to disrupt the trial and achieve jury nullification.”
In a November interview with the Financial Times, Shkreli said he believed his notoriety will help sway a jury to acquit, likening himself to O.J. Simpson, Brodsky said.
Since his arrest, Shkreli feuded with rapper Ghostface Killah, was banned from Twitter for harassing a female journalist, made sexist comments about Taylor Swift, and claimed during the election campaign that Hillary Clinton had Parkinson’s disease.
Shkreli has also made numerous public appearances with former Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos, who was also banned from Twitter after harassing “Ghostbusters” actress Leslie Jones. Yiannopoulos posted a picture of himself and Shkreli standing side by side, with the title “A Twitter Villain Extravaganza,” on his Instagram page.
Greebel has “no public persona, zero notoriety, lives a quiet life,” according to his lawyer.
Asked about the coming trial, Shkreli told Bloomberg TV in December, “We’re going to win by a landslide.”
He also predicted jurors will like him. “Invariably, when people read the headline about Martin Shkreli, they hate Martin Shkreli,” he said. “When they get to know Martin Shkreli, they love Martin Shkreli.”