Former drug company executive Martin Shkreli on Tuesday apologized for a Facebook post that offered his followers a $5,000 reward for obtaining a strand of Hillary Clinton’s hair, a post that led U.S. prosecutors to ask that he be jailed while he awaits sentencing for securities fraud.
Shkreli, who earned the nickname “Pharma Bro” for exploits that included an exponential increase to the price of a life-saving drug, described his post about Clinton as an “awkward attempt at humor or satire.”
In a letter to U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto, Shkreli, 34, said he did not mean to threaten Clinton when he offered the online bounty for pieces of the former Democratic presidential candidate’s hair during her upcoming book tour. He said he quickly added a disclaimer to the post saying he was not encouraging assault.
“I want to assure Your Honor that I am not a violent person, have never personally engaged in any violent behavior, nor have I ever intentionally encouraged anyone to do so,” Shkreli wrote.
U.S. prosecutors last week said the Sept. 4 Facebook post, which prompted an investigation by the U.S. Secret Service, was part of an “escalating pattern of threats and harassment” that warranted revoking his $5 million bail.
In a separate letter, Shkreli’s lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, said the Facebook post was “constitutionally-protected political hyperbole.”
Brafman compared the post to other examples of political satire, including a photo of comedian Kathy Griffin holding a likeness of President Donald Trump’s severed head. Shkreli is an outspoken supporter of the Republican president.
Matsumoto will hold a hearing on the motion to revoke Shkreli’s bail on Wednesday.
Shkreli was convicted in August of defrauding investors of two hedge funds he ran, MSMB Capital and MSMB Healthcare. He was acquitted of stealing from a drug company he later founded, Retrophin Inc, to pay them back.
Though he faces a maximum sentence of 20 years, Shkreli will likely serve much less, in part because none of his hedge fund investors lost money.
Shkreli became famous for raising the price of anti-infection drug Daraprim by 5,000 percent in 2015 while he was chief executive of Turing Pharmaceuticals. Patients and U.S. lawmakers were outraged.
Since his December 2015 arrest, he has clashed frequently with critics on social media. Twitter banned him from its platform in January for harassing a female journalist, another incident prosecutors cited in their motion to revoke his bail.
(Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York)