US prosecutors ask judge to silence Shkreli during trial

NEW YORK, July 4 (Reuters) - Federal prosecutors on Monday asked a U.S. judge for a gag order muzzling former drug company executive Martin Shkreli, on trial for securities fraud charges, arguing that his statements to media could taint the jury and disrupt the case, court papers show.

Shkreli's attorney, Benjamin Brafman, asked the judge that day to reject the request on the grounds that his client had a First Amendment right to speak freely, according to the filings.

Shkreli last week told reporters outside the court that an alleged victim of his was not actually a victim because she made money from his investments, attorneys for the U.S. government told U.S. Judge Kiyo Matsumoto in a letter on Monday. He also directly spoke on camera to a journalist and appeared to be commenting on the case on social media platform Twitter under the handle @BLMBro, they added.

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Martin Shkreli, former chief executive officer of Turing Pharmaceuticals and KaloBios Pharmaceuticals Inc, departs after a hearing at U.S. Federal Court in Brooklyn, New York, U.S., June 26, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Martin Shkreli, chief executive officer of Turing Pharmaceuticals LLC, center, and attorney Evan Greebel, left, exit federal court in New York, U.S., on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2015. Shkreli was arrested on alleged securities fraud related to Retrophin Inc., a biotech firm he founded in 2011. Greebel is accused of conspiring with Shkreli in part of the scheme. Photographer: Peter Foley/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Martin Shkreli, chief executive officer of Turing Pharmaceuticals LLC, exits federal court in New York, U.S., on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2015. Shkreli was arrested on alleged securities fraud related to Retrophin Inc., a biotech firm he founded in 2011. Photographer: Peter Foley/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Martin Shkreli, chief investment officer of MSMB Capital Management, sits for a photograph in his office in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2011. MSMB made an unsolicited $378 million takeover bid for Amag Pharmaceuticals Inc. and said it will fire the drugmaker's top management if successful. Photographer: Paul Taggart/Bloomberg via Getty Images ***Local Caption ** Martin Shkreli
Martin Shkreli, chief investment officer of MSMB Capital Management, works on a computer in his office in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2011. MSMB made an unsolicited $378 million takeover bid for Amag Pharmaceuticals Inc. and said it will fire the drugmaker's top management if successful. Photographer: Paul Taggart/Bloomberg via Getty Images ***Local Caption ** Martin Shkreli
Martin Shkreli, chief investment officer of MSMB Capital Management, sits behind a chess board in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2011. MSMB made an unsolicited $378 million takeover bid for Amag Pharmaceuticals Inc. and said it will fire the drugmaker's top management if successful. Photographer: Paul Taggart/Bloomberg via Getty Images ***Local Caption ** Martin Shkreli
Martin Shkreli (L), former chief executive officer of Turing Pharmaceuticals and KaloBios Pharmaceuticals Inc, arrives for a hearing at U.S. Federal Court in Brooklyn, New York, U.S. October 14, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Martin Shkreli, former chief executive officer of Turing Pharmaceuticals and KaloBios Pharmaceuticals Inc, departs following a hearing at U.S. Federal Court in Brooklyn, New York, U.S., April 26, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Martin Shkreli (C), former chief executive officer of Turing Pharmaceuticals and KaloBios Pharmaceuticals Inc, arrives for a hearing at U.S. Federal Court in Brooklyn, New York, U.S. October 14, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Martin Shkreli (C), former chief executive officer of Turing Pharmaceuticals and KaloBios Pharmaceuticals Inc, arrives at a U.S. Federal Court in New York, U.S., June 6, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Former drug executive Martin Shkreli exits the U.S. Federal Courthouse in the Brooklyn borough of New York February 3, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Martin Shkreli (top, R), former CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals LLC, arrives before a House Oversight and Government Reform hearing on "Developments in the Prescription Drug Market Oversight" on Capitol Hill in Washington February 4, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Martin Shkreli, former chief executive officer of Turing Pharmaceuticals AG, right, exits federal court with his attorney Benjamin Brafman in the Brooklyn borough of New York, U.S., on Thursday, June 29, 2017. Shkreli is accused of engineering separate frauds tied to his control of two hedge funds he ran as well as�Retrophin Inc., a pharmaceutical company he founded in 2011. Photographer: Peter Foley/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Martin Shkreli (C), chief executive officer of Turing Pharmaceuticals and KaloBios Pharmaceuticals Inc, departs U.S. Federal Court after an arraignment following his being charged in a federal indictment filed in Brooklyn relating to his management of hedge fund MSMB Capital Management and biopharmaceutical company Retrophin Inc. in New York December 17, 2015. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Bloomberg Best of the Year 2016: Martin Shkreli, former chief executive officer of Turing Pharmaceuticals LLC, reacts during a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing on prescription drug prices in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016. Shkreli, who is no longer with Turing and faces federal fraud charges unrelated to the drugmaker, declined to make any comments to the committee. 'On the advice of counsel, I invoke my Fifth Amendment,' Shkreli said. Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Martin Shkreli, former chief executive officer of Turing Pharmaceuticals LLC, smiles during a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing on prescription drug prices in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016. Shkreli, who is no longer with Turing and faces federal fraud charges unrelated to the drugmaker, declined to make any comments to the committee. 'On the advice of counsel, I invoke my Fifth Amendment,' Shkreli said. Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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Brafman said Shkreli was in a delicate emotional state, and believed that the press focuses unfairly on some of his negative characteristics.

"His comments are the somewhat natural, though unfortunate consequence of a young man with a demonstrated history of significant anxiety being at the center of a supremely difficult time in his life," Brafman wrote in the filing.

Dubbed the "pharma bro," Shkreli, 34, gained notoriety for raising the price of a life-saving drug by 5,000 percent. The charges he faces stem from his management of pharmaceutical company Retrophin Inc and the hedge fund MSMB Capital Management from 2009 to 2014.

Prosecutors have claimed that Shkreli engaged in a Ponzi-like scheme in which he defrauded investors in MSMB and took $11 million in assets from Retrophin to repay them. Shkreli has pleaded not guilty to charges that include securities fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Federal prosecutors have asked Judge Matsumoto sequester the jury in the event that the court does not issue the gag order.

In their letter, federal prosecutors said Shkreli visited reporters in a court breakroom last week and remarked on the credibility of witnesses who testified.

Prosecutors also wrote that Shkreli on YouTube had identified himself as BLMBro. The BLMBro Twitter account has posted stories critical of witnesses and evidence in the trial, they added.

Shkreli in January was suspended from Twitter for harassing a female journalist.

Brafman has argued that Shkreli is a misunderstood genius who earned his wealthy investors millions of dollars.

(Reporting by Jessica DiNapoli in New York; Editing by Richard Chang)

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