NEW YORK — Former pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli, who is awaiting sentencing for a fraud conviction, was sent to jail on Wednesday (Sept 13) after a federal judge revoked his bail because he had offered US$5,000 (S$6,756) for a strand of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s hair.
Shkreli, who was free on bail of US$5 million while he awaited sentencing, had made two Facebook posts offering cash to anyone who could “grab a hair” from Mrs Clinton during her book tour.
At the hearing in United States District Court in Brooklyn, Judge Kiyo A. Matsumoto said that Shkreli’s post could be perceived as a threat.
“That is a solicitation to assault in exchange for money that is not protected by the First Amendment,” she said.
Shkreli, 34, gained notoriety as a pharmaceutical executive for increasing the price of a lifesaving drug by 5,000 per cent. He was convicted in August of three counts of fraud relating to two hedge funds and a pharmaceutical company he previously ran.
On Wednesday, he was scheduled to be sentenced on Jan 16, but he most likely will not be released before then unless his lawyers can show that he poses no threat to the community.
Shkreli’s online offer last week prompted prosecutors to request that his bail be revoked, and the Secret Service to investigate.
“On HRC’s book tour, try to grab a hair from her,” he wrote, referring to Mrs Clinton. “Will pay $5,000 per hair obtained from Hillary Clinton.”
Although Shkreli edited the post to say that he had meant it to be satirical, and he later took it down altogether, prosecutors contended that there was a risk that one of Shkreli’s social media followers would take the post seriously and act on it.
It was, they noted, not the first time that Shkreli had made inflammatory posts on social media.
Just before his conviction, prosecutors wrote, Shkreli had made a sexual threat toward a female journalist on Twitter; since then, they wrote, “Shkreli has engaged in an escalating pattern of threats and harassment”.
Shkreli’s lawyer Benjamin Brafman argued at the hearing that Shkreli was not violent and that the post had been “a momentary lapse in judgment”, adding that his client’s Facebook posts had shown “immaturity, satire, a warped sense of humor”.
But the judge was unmoved. “What is funny about that?” Judge Matsumoto responded. “He doesn’t know who his followers are.” THE NEW YORK TIMES