It’s hard to say what will happen to Martin Shkreli in jail, but one thing’s for sure: It won’t be fun.
Prior to being locked up, the 34-year-old former pharmaceutical executive, had spent an inordinate amount of time online, live streaming his life and chatting with fans as he played with his cat “Trashy.” Now he may have to share quarters with a fellow criminal — and perhaps rodents — and will have his computer use limited, with no access to social media.
Shkreli is spending the first day in lock-up after a federal judge revoked his bail on Wednesday. U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto found he posed an "ongoing danger or risk to the community" by posting a $5,000 bounty on Facebook for a strand of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s hair, an offer Shkreli later said was "a joke."
Shkreli is in the Metropolitan Detention Center in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, a federal jail that holds criminal defendants awaiting trial or sentencing on charges ranging from white-collar fraud to terrorism. Convicted last month of fraud, Shkreli will probably have to spend the next four months in the MDC, waiting to be sentenced on Jan. 16.
Far from the tame image of white-collar prison camps, the MDC is a tough place, said Vincent McCrudden, a former hedge fund manager and commodities trader who spent eight months there in 2012 and 2015. Like Shkreli, McCrudden’s comments helped land him in jail. McCrudden, 56, posted online rants threatening public officials.
"It’s very, very high security," McCrudden said. "You’re in there with murderers and cartel members."
Shkreli’s usual wardrobe of jeans, T-shirts and hoodies has been replaced with what McCrudden called “turd brown” jumpsuits.
Shackles, strip searches, and holding cells with two to 20 inmates are all part of life at the MDC, McCrudden said in a phone interview. Bathroom facilities consist of toilets shared by inmates in two-man cells and a shower block. Inmates generally have access to a handful of computers but strictly for emailing and research — and no use of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Shkreli’s other usual Internet hangouts. Phones are available but time is restricted, McCrudden said.
Inmates usually can move around during the day. But, they are on lockdown in their cells at night, he said. If an inmate is concerned for his safety, the only option is the Special Housing Unit, or SHU — usually pronounced “shoe.” It’s solitary confinement, used mostly for punishment, McCrudden said.
Compared with the rest of the jail, the SHU was "third-world disgusting," McCrudden said.
"The toilets don’t work," he said. "There are cockroaches, rats and mice."
The Bureau of Prisons doesn’t release information as to the conditions of an individual inmate’s confinement for security reasons and doesn’t discuss inmate behavior due to privacy concerns, Justin Long, a bureau spokesman, said in an email..
The harsh image of Shkreli’s imprisonment might be welcomed by his many critics. Shkreli became a focal point of national controversy when he raised the sticker price of a potentially life-saving drug by a whopping 5,000 percent in 2015.
He outraged the public further by defending his decision, with his ubiquitous, smug smirk. At a Congressional hearing on drug-pricing in 2016, he refused to answer questions, citing his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, and then called lawmakers “imbeciles” in a tweet.
A frequent butt of online insults, Shkreli has been described in the press as the "most hated man on the Internet." Rather than shy away from negative attention, he has embraced it and prolonged his image as a villain on social media.
“I’m thinking a sick supervillain league could be me, Milo Yiannopoulos, Donald J. Trump, my dad Vladimir Putin and Peter Thiel. Anyone I missed (fictional characters welcome)? Who would we do battle with?” Shkreli posted that on his Facebook page just hours before he was sent off to prison.
A friend of Shkreli’s, Reida Powell, a medical assistant in Portland, Oregon, said she was "shocked" when she learned that his bail was revoked. Sending him to a high-security facility seemed "extremely excessive for the situation."
In person, Shkreli is "not threatening," Powell said. She said the Clinton comment was "weird" but "we all say different things on the Internet that we wouldn’t say in real life."
Powell said she is worried about Shkreli’s safety.
"He’s not a popular person," she said. "People threaten him on the Internet every day.”
During jury selection for Shkreli’s trial in June, which was over securities fraud and conspiracy charges and had nothing to do with drug pricing, some potential jurors were excused after telling the judge they were already too biased against the former executive to serve. One juror said he looked like a "snake." Another said he was the "face of corporate greed."
Along with the offer for Clinton’s hair, prosecutors cited Shkreli’s online harassment of female journalists as further evidence he posed a threat. Shkreli was kicked off of Twitter earlier this year for "targeted harassment" of a journalist who publicly spurned his offer to be his date to Trump’s inauguration.
Shkreli could face a risk of violence in the jail, which is a regular occurrence, according to McCrudden. But one of the worst possibilities — prison rape — is probably unlikely, he said.
"Martin may have trouble because it seems like he likes to talk a lot," McCrudden said. "There’s a thing in prison called ‘stay in your lane.’ You have to be highly tolerant of other people and be respectful and you’ll be OK."
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