By Nate Raymond
NEW YORK (Reuters) - 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 (RTRX.O), a biopharmaceutical company which Shkreli founded and headed until 2014.
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.
"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.
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.
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)