By Brendan Pierson
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Jurors were presented with a stark choice during opening statements Friday in the trial of Evan Greebel, the lawyer charged with conspiracy alongside former drug executive Martin Shkreli: was he Shkreli's "right hand man," or a victim of his deceit?
Assistant U.S. Attorney David Kessler told jurors that Greebel helped Shkreli steal millions of dollars from his drug company, Retrophin Inc, to pay back investors in two failed hedge funds run by Shkreli, MSMB Capital and MSMB Healthcare.
"The defendant had become Martin Shkreli's right hand man," Kessler said.
A jury in August found Shkreli guilty of defrauding MSMB investors, but not guilty of conspiring with Greebel to steal from Retrophin.
Greebel, 44, is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud against Retrophin, but not with defrauding investors.
Reed Brodsky, Greebel's lawyer, told jurors that Shkreli lied to Greebel just as he lied to investors. He strove to distance his client from Shkreli, whose provocative public behavior has earned him the nickname "pharma bro."
"You're going to learn that Evan Greebel is about as different from Martin Shkreli as two people can be," Brodsky said.
Brodsky said payments from Retrophin to MSMB were made in the open, with no deception. A former chairman of Retrophin's board conceded under cross-examination during Shkreli's trial that settlements with MSMB investors had been publicly disclosed.
Greebel is also accused of conspiring with Shkreli to exercise secret control over Retrophin shares belonging to several other shareholders. Shkreli was found guilty of that charge. Brodsky said on Friday that Greebel never took part in any scheme to control the shares.
Shkreli, 34, became notorious in 2015 when he raised the price of anti-parasitic drug Daraprim to $750 a pill, from $13.50, as chief executive of Turing Pharmaceuticals. The price hike is not related to the criminal case.
In September, following his conviction, Shkreli was jailed after he placed a $5,000 bounty on former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's hair, prompting U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto to revoke his bail.
Shkreli's trial offered a glimpse of his relationship with Greebel, in the form of sometimes hostile emails read in court.
"Why can't you do your job?" Shkreli asked Greebel in one email.
Later, Shkreli wrote Greebel, "You embarrass me."
Greebel was a partner at the law firm Katten Muchin Rosenman when he was working for Retrophin. He later joined the firm Kaye Scholer, but resigned after his arrest. His trial is expected to last five weeks.
(Reporting by Brendan Pierson; Editing by Sandra Maler)