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Shkreli’s Lawyer: Congress Tried to Humiliate Him

Shkreli (left) stands with Brafman (right) at last week's House Oversight and Government Reform hearing. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Benjamin Brafman, the criminal defense attorney for former pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli, is claiming the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee's reason for compelling his client to testify last week was to humiliate him.  

Brafman gave the committee advance knowledge that if Shkreli appeared before them, he would invoke the Fifth Amendment, he wrote in the New York Law Journal on Wednesday.  

And, the former hedge fund honcho did just that, drawing national scrutiny for that, as well as his actions and attitude during the hearing .  

“He is a 32-year-old scientist who has never faced hostile questioning by powerful people intent on humiliation with dozens of live camera feeds 48 inches from his face,” Brafman wrote. “So I forgive and understand his occasional nervous smile and even the occasional smirk.”  

The chief operating officer of Turing Pharmaceuticals, Shkreli’s former company, Nancy Retzlaff, also testified at the hearing and Brafman said she was the “perfect witness” to discuss the company’s drug price increase.  

This hearing was held to investigate Turing and other pharmaceutical companies for raising drug prices. Shkreli was arrested in December on securities fraud charges in a ponzi-like scheme and was freed on a $5 million bond.  

The committee questioned Retzlaff once Shkreli was excused and left the room, about Turing raising the price of the life-saving drug Daraprim. Brafman wrote that because of Retzlaff’s presence and willingness to answer questions, Shkreli was only there to be embarrassed.  

Brafman charged that Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., was “perhaps most inappropriate,” because of his advice to Shkreli that he should waive his Fifth Amendment right. Brafman related himself to Michael Corleone’s lawyer in "The Godfather" movies, Tom Hagen. Played by Robert Duvall, Hagen yelled at a congressional hearing that the committee owed his client an apology.  

“Well, Martin Shkreli is not Michael Corleone and I am not an actor,” Brafman wrote. “I am a serious, experienced criminal defense lawyer who gave my client the right advice and who also asked the committee to avoid the public spectacle of Shkreli having to invoke his Fifth Amendment privilege.”  

Brafman wrote that he respects ranking member Elijah Cummings, D-Md., but said the congressman referring to Turing’s money as “blood money” was not correct.  

Cummings was also particularly angry in the hearing room once Shkreli and Brafman left regarding a tweet Shkreli sent. It read, “Hard to accept that these imbeciles represent the people in our government.” Brafman wrote that the tweet was unfortunate, but understandable.  

Brafman has previously represented Michael Jackson, Sean Combs and Dominique Strauss-Kahn, among others. The day before this hearing, he told USA Today that he would not allow Shkreli to make any more statements.  

At a press conference following last week's hearing, during which Shkreli stood next to Brafman in silence, Brafman said, “I think everyone will recognize that Mr. Shkreli is not a villain. At the end of this story, he is a hero.”  

Contact Gangitano at AlexGangitano@cqrollcall.com and follow her on Twitter at @AlexGangitano.

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