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‘Pharma Bro’ Martin Shkreli fraud trial set for June 2017

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Martin Shkreli, the former pharmaceutical executive who last year became a lightning rod for criticism of soaring prescription drug prices, is now scheduled to go on trial in June 2017 in the U.S. government’s securities fraud case against him.

U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto, in Brooklyn, New York, set a June 26, 2017, trial date in the case against Shkreli, 33, and Evan Greebel, a former lawyer for Retrophin Inc , a biopharmaceutical company which Shkreli founded and headed until 2014.

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Prosecutors had sought to have the four-week trial take place as soon as February. But Benjamin Brafman, Shkreli’s lawyer, pushed for a June date, citing his schedule in other cases and complex motions he planned.

“We’re not just going to be sitting on a beach waiting for the June trial date,” Brafman said.

The judge also set Oct. 2, 2017, for a potential second trial, after Brafman said he expected to file a severance motion so that Shkreli and Greebel could be tried separately. Greebel had been seeking an October trial date.

Brafman argued that separating the two defendants at trial was necessary, as Shrekli’s defense would turn in part on legal advice that Greebel had provided him in undertaking some of the central actions in the case.

Outside of court, Brafman said Shkreli was not accusing Greebel of wrongdoing, and that pursuing an advice-of-counsel defense did not mean either man committed a crime.

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“I don’t think there’s a finger of blame to point in this case,” he said.

Shkreli, after leaving Retrophin, ran Turing Pharmaceuticals, where he sparked outrage among patients and U.S. lawmakers for raising the price of a drug used to treat a dangerous parasitic infection by more than 5,000 percent, to $750 a pill.

His criminal case arose from alleged conduct between 2009 and 2014, during Shkreli’s management of Retrophin and the hedge fund MSMB Capital Management.

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Prosecutors said Shkreli engaged in a Ponzi-like scheme in which he defrauded investors in MSMB and misappropriated $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. He has said he did not commit a crime.

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The case is U.S. v. Shkreli, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, No. 15-cr-00637.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; editing by Leslie Adler and G Crosse)


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MSNBC’s Dr. Gupta blasts ‘weak leadership’ of GOP governors: ‘It’s too little too late’

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On Thursday's edition of MSNBC's "Meet The Press," medical analyst Dr. Vin Gupta laid into Republican governors' mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic as new cases explode across the country.

"Dr. Gupta, we have the governor of Texas issuing an order for Texans to wear masks. Not seeing the same thing in Florida," said anchor Katy Tur. "What is your medical take?"

"I think it's too little, too late. Both in Texas and Florida," said Gupta. "Florida especially, given what is happening with day-to-day caseloads. If I was Governor DeSantis, you need to be thinking about how to save lives. That's bringing in portable ICUs, making sure you have enough dialysis nurses. This is potentially even mobilizing National Guard. I know we are not talking about military forces, reserves."

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Young Americans urged to be more responsible in coronavirus fight

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Accused of failing to uphold their civic duty, younger Americans are behind the current COVID-19 surge, with several states moving to close bars, beaches and other places that saw huge crowds when lockdowns were eased.

The median age for new cases in Florida in the past few days has fluctuated between 34 and 36. In Los Angeles, 40 percent of new cases are among those under 40. And in the greater Phoenix area, the major center of the contagion in Arizona, half are under the age of 35.

In total, half or more of all the cases in California and Arizona since the start of the pandemic have been among the 18-49 age group, and the rate is expected to rise.

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Texas conservatives lose their minds after GOP Gov. Greg Abbott mandates masks in public

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Texas' Republican Gov. Gregg Abbott finally acknowledged that there is a serious problem as COVID-19 takes down the state's population.

It was just a few months ago that municipalities were deciding for themselves when and if they would reopen. But Abbott shut it down, saying that his orders "overrule any local jurisdiction."

In April, "Abbott and the state’s other Republican leaders have blasted local officials in Dallas and Houston for what they called overzealous enforcement of COVID-19 regulations, first zeroing in on Democratically led Harris County’s decision to fine residents for not wearing face masks, a penalty Abbott banned in his April 27 reopening order," ProPublica reported. "The fights came to a head this month with the arrest of a Dallas hair salon owner who refused to shutter her business, an act of defiance that was supported by a right-wing group that launched a GoFundMe campaign a day before she reopened that raised $500,000 before it was disabled."

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