Accused fraudster Martin Shkreli's trial set for June 26

Pokémon GO

The former Retrophin CEO is accused of looting the company to pay off hedge fund investors he was suspected of defrauding.

Martin Shkreli has the next year to perfect his "Pokemon Go" skills.

At a hearing Thursday, a federal judge set Shkreli's trial date for June 26, 2017 — more than 1 ½ years after the controversial former pharmaceuticals was arrested in December 2015 on allegations of securities fraud.

Shkreli's lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, also told U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto that he intends to request that the trial in Brooklyn federal court be severed so that his client can be tried separately from his co-defendant and and former lawyer, Evan Greebel.

Both Shkreli and Greebel have pleaded not guilty in the case.

Shkreli, 33, is accused by prosecutors of looting the pharma company Retrophin that he was then heading of $11 million to pay off investors he was suspected of previously defrauding in a hedge fund he ran.

After leaving the courthouse in Brooklyn, New York, Shkreli leaned over to his attorney and asked, "Can I play Pokemon Go now?" The augmented reality game has quickly amassed more active users than any mobile game in U.S. history.

During Thursday's hearing, Brafman said his plan to request separate trials is based on the possibility that he will mount a defense of "reliance on counsel" for Shkreli. If he chooses that tack before a jury, Brafman would argue that Shkreli is innocent because he was acting on the reliance of Greebel's advice as a lawyer during the time covered by the indictment.

"I don't think there is a finger of blame to point in this case," Brafman told reporters after the hearing when one asked if he was looking to blame Greebel. "You know, to the extent that both defendants may be innocent, but one is a lawyer and our client relied on his advice, it doesn't necessarily mean that either of them committed a crime."

Matsumoto said that if she agreed to try the co-defendants separately, the second trial will be set for Oct. 2, 2017.

She left unaddressed who would be tried first. And it is not certain that she would agree to sever the cases.

Prosecutors in the case wanted to set the trial for next February or April. But Brafman said he wanted to wait until June because he and his co-counsel for Shkreli have several other trials already scheduled between now and then. Greebel's lawyer had asked for a trial date in October 2017.

The hearing lasted a bit longer than an hour — and at times seemed longer than that. Among other things, the lawyers for both sides squabbled over whether prosecutors had adequately disclosed potentially exculpatory evidence in their possession to the defendants as required by law. The defense attorneys also wanted to know why it was taking so long to obtain a laptop computer from the Retrophin's auditors.

The prosecutors said they have turned over everything they've received to date, but are still seeking documents from additional parties.

Finally, another possible bone of contention between the defendants was discussed, underscoring how difficult it may be for them to coordinate legal strategy at trial.

Brafman maintained that Greebel, at times, acted as Shkreli's personal lawyer while also representing Retrophin. Greebel's lawyer, Reed Brodsky, told the judge that Greeble only acted as counsel for Retrophin.

On his way out of the courtroom, Brafman said, "We asked for a June trial date and we got a June trial date, and I think other issues will work themselves out. ... So we are coming out of this building feeling very pleased."

Retrophin's board ousted Shkreli in 2014, and later sued him for $65 million in connection with his alleged plundering of the company.

Shkreli first drew public attention and scorn last year after his new company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, abruptly raised the price of the drug Daraprim, used to treat toxoplasmosis, by more than 5,500 percent. Daraprim's sticker price jumped from $13.50 per pill to $750 a pill overnight. Shkreli repeatedly defended the increase as justified, even as critics noted that pregnant women, babies and people infected with the HIV virus are primary patients of the medication.

Although the price hike drew widespread outrage, it had nothing to do with the criminal charges that were subsequently lodged against him.

In February, Shkreli refused to testify before a congressional committee investigating drug price increases, citing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

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