Is Martin Shkreli "strange" and "weird," with a "dysfunctional personality"? Yes on all counts, per Benjamin Brafman, the ex-pharma CEO's lawyer, who offered what the New York Times calls a "captivating" opening statement at Shkreli's securities fraud trial Wednesday in New York City. Brafman also threw in the terms "nerd" and "mad scientist," per the Guardian, but noted his client was "brilliant beyond words" and actually made investors in his two hedge funds and his pharmaceutical firm, Retrophin, a lot of money. "As Lady Gaga said, 'He was born this way,'" Brafman added, with Shkreli paying rapt attention from his seat as if he were "watching a terrific movie," per the Times. Brafman said it was the investors and Retrophin board who bullied and questioned the sexuality of Shkreli, who later gained notoriety for jacking up the price of a life-saving medication via his Turing Pharmaceuticals startup.
The prosecution painted quite a different picture, with Assistant US Attorney Karthik Srinivasan saying Shkreli's hedge funds were constructed with "lies on top of lies on top of lies" and ended up losing his investors money—which Shkreli then tried to cover up by sneaking money out of Retrophin to pay them back. "In reality, he was just a con man," Srinivasan said. The Washington Post notes that during Srinivasan's diatribe against Shkreli, Shkreli simply jotted down some words and grinned. Some potential jurors agreed with Srinivasan: More than 250 candidates were dismissed over three days, many due to their "Pharma Bro" views. Still, Brafman didn't pass up a chance to cite Lady Gaga yet again. "The government's going to stand up and give you 100 million reasons to convict," Brafman said, per CNBC. "I'm going [to] give you one good reason to acquit him: He's not guilty."