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- 08/04/17--03:00: _Large commercial op...
- 08/04/17--11:32: _Toronto’s high land...
- 08/04/17--10:17: _Conor McGregor’s sp...
- 08/04/17--12:16: _De-funding the Afri...
- 08/04/17--12:27: _Just who gave appro...
- 08/04/17--11:49: _‘Pharma Bro’ Martin...
- 08/04/17--11:03: _Should Toronto push...
- 08/04/17--15:05: _26-year-old female ...
- 08/04/17--14:16: _The roundabout way ...
- 08/04/17--17:54: _Brampton man charge...
- 08/04/17--11:28: _How the swamp creat...
- 08/04/17--19:02: _Special counsel inv...
- 08/04/17--15:03: _Ontario’s top court...
- 08/04/17--15:41: _Toronto constable f...
- 08/04/17--14:36: _Ronnie Hawkins is s...
- 08/05/17--14:56: _Explosion hits Minn...
- 08/05/17--11:50: _Trudeau makes a spl...
- 08/05/17--12:12: _Milan police arrest...
- 08/05/17--07:15: _Montreal’s Olympic ...
- 08/05/17--07:22: _Lack of remorse cou...
- 08/04/17--12:27: Just who gave approval for Markham’s cow statue?
- 08/04/17--11:49: ‘Pharma Bro’ Martin Shkreli has been convicted of securities fraud
- 08/04/17--15:05: 26-year-old female cyclist struck by a car in Oshawa dies
- 08/04/17--14:16: The roundabout way to control road traffic
- 08/04/17--17:54: Brampton man charged after pedestrian struck and killed with car
- 08/04/17--15:41: Toronto constable facing more Police Services Act charges
- 08/05/17--14:56: Explosion hits Minnesota mosque just before morning prayers
- 08/05/17--11:50: Trudeau makes a splash kayaking on the West Coast
Large commercial players are dominating the short-term rental market in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, and raking in most of the revenue, according to research analyzing Airbnb activity.
And contrary to the Airbnb narrative that the online booking service is about regular people sharing their homes to help pay the mortgage, there has been disproportionately large growth of full-time, entire-home listings that belong to hosts with multiple Airbnb properties, according to a copy of a draft report prepared by the McGill University School of Urban Planning.
The report said the full-time, entire-home listings represent 6,500 properties across the three cities and account for more than a third of all revenue earned. In Toronto, growth in that category has increased more than 100 per cent from May 2016 to June 2017.
“More and more of the money is being earned by a smaller and (a) more kind of commercialized and sophisticated, large-scale set of hosts,” said professor David Wachsmuth, lead author of the report called “Short-term Cities: Airbnb’s Impact on Canadian Housing Markets.
The report bills itself as the first comparative analysis of short-term rentals in three major cities and is based on a data set obtained from Airdna, a data company that tracks the performance of Airbnb listings. The report also used data taken from the 2011 and 2016 censuses and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s rental market survey.
In some cases, some hosts have hundreds of separate properties listed on the Airbnb platform and are earning millions annually, Wachsmuth said Thursday.
“These aren’t . . . people who own their house and they’re renting it out on the weekend when they’re gone.”
Airbnb spokesperson Lindsey Scully rejected the report’s conclusions.
“The author of this study has a history of manipulating scraped data to misrepresent Airbnb hosts, the vast majority of whom are middle-class Canadian families sharing their homes to earn a bit of additional income to help pay the bills,” she told the Star Thursday.
“The fact is, just 760 Airbnb entire home listings, or 0.07 per cent of the entire housing stock in Toronto, are rented frequently enough to outcompete a long-term rental, undercutting the author’s baseless conclusions about housing units removed.”
Wachsmuth said he stands by his team’s research — “my methodology is completely transparent” — and urged Airbnb to provide open data access to McGill researchers. He described as “completely absurd” Airbnb’s statement that only 760 entire-home listings on Airbnb are pushing out long-term rentals.
Wachsmuth also wrote a study, currently under peer review, of Airbnb’s impact on gentrification in New York City.
Where there’s no dispute is that there has been an explosion in the number of Airbnb listings in Canada. There are now 81,000 active listings in the three cities, up from 50,000 in May 2016, the draft paper said.
“More worryingly, in the same time period the number of entire homes which have been converted to full-time Airbnb usage has increased from 9,000 to 14,000 across the three cities,” said the draft report.
That means 14,000 entire homes, including condo units, have been taken out of the long-term rental market, at a time when there is scarce rental housing stock and a low vacancy rate.
“Every home that is converted to full-time Airbnb use is subtracted from the pool of actual potential long-term rental housing units in a city,” said the draft paper.
“These listings are growing around 25 per cent more rapidly than other categories of listings.”
Wachsmuth said the unavoidable conclusion is that Airbnb is having an impact on the rental housing market. That’s why it makes sense for Toronto and Vancouver to adopt proposed regulations that would impose a one-host, one-home rule, and place other restrictions and fees on short-term rental hosts.
Toronto’s executive committee has approved a city staff proposal that short-term rentals be legal for up to three rooms, or an entire home as long as it is a person’s principal residence. A final set of proposals will go before city council later this year.
“We shouldn’t let short-term rentals drive out long-term rentals,” Wachsmuth said. “It’s absolutely vital that Airbnb and other short-term rental platforms be required to proactively enforce these regulations.”
The draft report also said that while a lot of money is being made using Airbnb, the big profits are going to commercial hosts who don’t live on the properties.
While Airbnb hosts in the three cities earned $430 million last year, 10 per cent of hosts earned a majority of that revenue, the report said. The top 1 per cent of hosts earned $51.7 million — more than 12 per cent of the total, the report said.
“They’re making an enormous amount and an enormously growing amount of money,” Wachsmuth said.
For instance, Toronto’s largest Airbnb host, Toronto Suite Rentals, had 128 listings and earned $1.34 million on Airbnb last year.
A casual host in the three cities earned an average of $5,310 between May 2016 and June 2017 — a 55-per-cent-increase over the previous year.
“Airbnb is growing like crazy, people who are saying ‘I would like a slice of that action and they’re listing their homes.’ It doesn’t mean that they’re earning much money. I think the two trends are happening simultaneously. Lots and lots of people are hoping they can make some money off Airbnb but actually it’s a maturing market and more and more of the money is being earned by the sophisticated players who really know how to make it,” Wachsmuth said.
The report also identified the top five revenue generating listings in each of the three cities. In Toronto, the five Airbnb listings were booked, on average, 236 nights a year and pulled in $145,000 each.
It’s easy to see why some property owners prefer short-term renters to long-term tenants.
“There aren’t many places that go for $20,000 a month in Toronto,” Wachsmuth said.
In some cities you can’t see the city for the parking.
Never mind the forest and the trees, there are Great Plains and mountain ranges of parking, nearly all of it in places there used to be city. From midcentury onwards, cities in North America and beyond devoured themselves in an effort to create more parking for places that were ever-diminishing because of that parking. It remains a vicious asphalt circle.
The Pretenders had a 1982 hit with My City Was Gone, an urban lament for lead singer’s Chrissie Hynde’s hometown of Akron, Ohio. “I went back to Ohio / But my city was gone” she sang. “There was no train station / There was no downtown / South Howard had disappeared / All my favorite places / My city had been pulled down / Reduced to parking spaces / A, o, way to go Ohio”
A recent visit to Atlantic City on the New Jersey shore revealed perhaps the most extreme example of a parking garage landscape with the massive casino hotel garages that line the famed boardwalk. They sprawl for blocks behind the casinos; at Caesars they’re disguised as Roman temples, and at Trump’s shuttered and mildew-smelling Taj Mahal as glitzy pastiches of a Raj colonial fantasy. Atlantic City’s garages, from some angles, seemed bigger than the hotels themselves.
Yet visit other American cities such as Detroit, Denver or Chicago and you’ll find ubiquitous aboveground parking garages attached to many buildings put up in the last 60 years or so. It’s skylines of parking. The upshot of all those parking skyscrapers is when visiting one of these cities they offer free panoramic views; always sneak into garages when travelling and take the elevator to the top.
Toronto, in comparison, largely dodged a concrete bullet. In the core we do have some above grade garages, especially in places like the institutional zones adjacent to University Ave, but they don’t dominate the landscape the way they do in other modern North American cities. Instead, many garages here are underground, with just the gaping maw of the entrance ramps indicating there’s parking down below. As big as some of those maws are, we’re still fortunate the skyline here is mostly offices, shops and homes rather than parking.
Land value in this city has made putting parking underground worth the trouble, even if critics argue we still require too much parking in new developments. Where land is more plentiful in the GTA, up go the cheaper aboveground garages. Where there are visible garages in the core, they were often built at a historic moment when it made economic sense.
Take Harbour Square on Queens Quay at Bay St. Its two high-rise towers form a rather handsome brutalist zig zag and then nearer to the ground they delicately cascade down towards the lake where there’s a public promenade. However, the side most people see along Queens Quay has a beast of a parking garage. It’s a product of its time though; when completed in the early 1970s Harbour Square was a pioneer on what was still a dirty, post-industrial waterfront so if it looks like it’s turning its back on the city, it was.
In the decades after the war, downtown Toronto was eviscerated by surface parking lots instead, but they’ve mostly been filled in thanks to the residential building boom. Look at aerial photos from just 25 years ago and the core seems like it was more parking than not, but now only a handful of surface lots remain. We should preserve one of them and put a historic plaque on it, homage to this civic self-destructive era.
Still, parking is a North American obsession, and an emotional one, where feelings and perceptions trump facts wherever the car remains a part of day-to-day life. In Windsor, there’s an ongoing and absurd battle over a municipal parking garage downtown that has retail stores at sidewalk level, making it rather urbane as such things go. Though an incredibly easy town to park in – parking at the Caesar’s Windsor casino garage is free, and the gates are always up, evidence of oversupply – the City of Windsor wants to remove the shops and add more parking to a structure that is rarely, if ever, full. Adding to the controversy is the escalating cost of the conversion.
Windsor is Canada’s Motor City though, and the car is both personal and political. In his forthcoming book out this September about Windsor’s history called Five Days Walking Five Towns: Touring Windsor’s Past, journalist and Windsor’s Poet Laureate Marty Gervais writes of the car’s power over his town and the emotional need for parking: “Windsor’s focus has always been the manufacture of automobiles. We build them; we buy them, we drive them. We are drivers. Not walkers. Not bus riders... Flatten the geography. Make room for the car. If we’re going to walk, we’ll do it from our car to the front door. It’s not about laziness. It’s about daily life. It’s attitude. It’s tradition. It’s the economy. It’s what we’re all about.”
To varying degrees, the same is true in Toronto and other cities that don’t necessarily make the cars, but do drive them. Just look at the massive garages still being constructed at GO train stations around the GTA.
Yet even as the GO parking temples dominate some suburban landscapes, visible parking is being hidden away elsewhere. Malls were traditionally surrounded by a sea of surface parking, a vaguely sinister place of idling cars and identical rows. As malls like Yorkdale and Square One have expanded into their lots though, they’ve built garages so parking takes up less space. Expect those not to be around forever though; that land is too valuable.
Bayview Village, adjacent to Bayview subway station, recently announced some of its parking lots will be filled in with an expansion that will include residential units. Over at the Shops at Don Mills, some of the parking lots surrounding that outdoor mall are set to become a residential building inexplicably named “Rodeo Drive.”
In Toronto, parking lots are latent gold mines. High land values have brought us a lot of new problems, but at least widespread parking garage blight isn’t one of them.
Shawn Micallef writes every Saturday about where and how we live in the GTA. Wander the streets with him on Twitter @shawnmicallef
Shawn Micallef writes every Saturday about where and how we live in the GTA. Wander the streets with him on Twitter @shawnmicallef
Because of the whole he’s-not-an-actual-boxer thing, MMA star Conor McGregor needed some serious sparring competition to get him ready for his Aug. 26 boxing match against Floyd Mayweather. No tomato can would do; McGregor would need to get a steady diet of ring time against solid competition.
Enter Paulie Malignaggi, a recently retired two-weight world champion boxer whose tenure as McGregor’s sparring partner lasted all of a few days this week. On Thursday night, he told ESPN’s Brett Okamoto that he was quitting after the MMA fighter’s camp released photos that depicted the sparring in an unfavourable light to Malignaggi and an untruthful light to what actually happened in the ring.
One appeared to show Malignaggi falling backward to the canvas in a knock-down.
Malignaggi responded on Twitter, saying that it wasn’t anywhere near a knockdown and calling on McGregor’s camp to release video of the entire 12-round sparring session.
“I wanted to be part of this event, but I didn’t want to become the story — and that’s what this has turned into,” Malignaggi told Okamoto. “I won’t release any information about his game plan or what he’s working on. I wouldn’t do that. But this has become a fiasco. It’s a circus.
“And I do want that sparring video released. The UFC’s PI definitely has that video. I understand it can’t come out now, but Conor, if you have any balls, release what really happened.”
What really happened, Malignaggi claims, is that he beat up McGregor pretty soundly, and did so soon after a cross-country flight from his home base in New York.
Malignaggi seemed to soften his stance a bit in a statement released Thursday night, saying that he and McGregor have “a mutual respect inside the ring.” But he wants nothing to do with his training moving forward.
McGregor’s camp made the perhaps odd move of not bringing in an experienced boxing coach to train him, instead sticking with Owen Roddy, his MMA striking coach of more than a decade. Naturally, Roddy said McGregor is an unstoppable sparring machine.
“Conor is killing it in sparring. He’s not getting touched, you know what I mean?” Roddy told Okamoto on Tuesday. “He can do as many rounds as we want because he’s doing so well.
“One thing I’ve noticed in camp is that week after week, he becomes twice the fighter he was. I’ve said this before, talking about MMA, that every fight, the ‘New Conor’ would smash the ‘Old Conor.’ Well, that’s happening every week this camp. Knowing what he’s doing, and how much he’ll improve in the next four weeks, I’m excited for people to see it.”
It’s not news — that the executive director of the African Canadian Legal Clinic (ACLC) used the clinic’s credit card to purchase a $754 diamond ring back in 2007. And that she repaid the amount, twice, she says, immediately after the purchase, and again after an audit flagged the fiscal no-no.
It’s not news that Margaret Parsons has had a running battle with Legal Aid Ontario (LAO), the government agency that funds 79 such clinics across the province. And that she loathes them as much as they seem to loathe her.
It’s not news that the pitched battle, now into its 17th year of public hostility, has divided the black community into pro-Parsons and anti-Parsons camps — all the while feeding into the crab-in-the-barrel stereotype ascribed to such historical conflict.
It’s not news that LAO has been trying to nail Parsons for years — accusing her of improper financial management, poor fiscal controls, misstatement of statistics, misuse of LAO funds for purposes other than intended, finagling with membership lists, insufficient corporate oversight. . . And it’s not news that LAO is still trying.
The relationship is permanently broken. Despite this, the last declaration from the LAO committee that decides on sanctions against clinics had to agree that, “some progress, if belatedly, has been made. We note for example, that it finally appears to be the case that apart from the unresolved concerns relating to inter-fund transfers, the recommendations from the 2012 PwC forensic audit report appear to have now been completely adopted by ACLC.”
Stop the press. Breaking news.
But, no. It is the committee’s caustic June 2016 report that is being leaked to the media by agents quietly representing LAO.
As reported this week in the Star by Metro’s May Warren and Vicky Mochama, that report said the clinic, which has advocated for the Black community for more than 20 years, was in “fundamental breach of its obligations” under its funding agreement with Legal Aid Ontario. A final decision, expected in a few weeks, could see the clinic defunded by LAO.
LAO’s big and latest bet was that auditors would discover that Parsons had used LAO money — the clinic got $669,730 last year in LAO grants — to fund ACLC projects not authorized by LAO. It was supposed to be the great “inter-fund” controversy.
But that fizzled when the accounting firm PwC reported in April: “We noted no indications of loaning or borrowing of LAO funds.”
The news is: just when the ACLC seems to be at its best in terms of meeting the high — Parsons says unfair and unreasonable — expectations, LAO is stuck with a raised and sharpened sword.
Just when Parsons and the clinic seem to be closest to meeting every imposed condition, LAO is poised to pull its funding.
This would be a dumb move and a crucial error. It would only bolster Parson’s long-standing view that the relentless scrutiny is motivated by more than the pursuit of fiscal accountability of public dollars.
In fact, if the findings of the latest audit of the clinic are to be believed there is grudging acknowledgment that ACLC is in compliance to all but a few conditions. So, it’s best to leave Parsons alone.
Yes, that’s a tough pill to swallow. But, the hawks at legal aid — egged on by black community enablers who once might have been scrupulous but are no longer justified — are better advised to pull in their talons.
The positioning of the latest leak of info surrounding the clinic is so one-sided, obviously skewed, too old news, and so willfully blind to the ACLC’s latest improvements as to raise suspicion.
As late as the June 2016 report from LAO’s punishment committee, one might have concluded that the clinic was toast. That report said ACLC had complied with just one of eight conditions placed on it — and that de-funding would happen by March 2017, if improvements were not forthcoming.
Awkwardly, two months before that decision, the internal audit division of LAO filed a report that said the ACLC had complied with 78 per cent of the 2013 recommendations from PwC and the clinic staff was cooperative and helpful.
Still, Legal Aid Ontario began setting up an advisory group of black professionals to provide a soft landing should clinic funds be cut. The most important goal was to cushion the anticipated political fallout from de-funding one of the most legally successful clinics — one that services the most marginalized and victimized clients. The advisory group has several prominent black citizens who have been scathing in their criticism of the clinic in the past. It also has members with questionable motives. And a third segment, discovering the tortuous history, have begun questioning why they were brought into the mess to give credence to what they fear is a hatchet job.
Make no mistake. De-funding the ACLC would hobble its effectiveness — no matter what replacements were instituted.
There is a fierce, fearless, freedom-seeking advocacy that courses through this organization. Its primal source and impetus is Parsons, executive director since 1996.
Set up by the Mike Harris Tories — imagine that — the clinic is supposed to be an advocate for the black community. And that it is.
Long before the term anti-black racism rolled off news readers’ lips and before racial profiling made it into our lexicon, Parsons and the clinic were railing against both — at conferences, in speeches, at the United Nations, and, more importantly, in the courts, including factums before the Supreme court of Canada.
Some clinics are tickled to argue a single case before the highest court; The African Canadian Legal Clinic has been there 15 times, with three more pending.
It was Osborne Barnwell, a Toronto lawyer who himself is not afraid to speak out against racism and challenge the law society, who best encapsulated Parsons in a Star series on the clinic in 2003. “I find the woman quite the right person to be at the clinic because — and this might rub people the wrong way — she doesn’t stand nonsense. I’m not surprised that there are some people who would want her head.”
From the start, there was conflict. The ACLC set up offices on Bay St., a fact that rubbed LAO officials the wrong way, Parsons said. They felt a clinic should be in the hood. Parsons interpreted that to mean they consider her an “uppity Negro” who didn’t know her place. It’s been downhill ever since.
Parsons doesn’t trust legal aid officials, thinks they try to squeeze and limit the clinic’s advocacy and reach and tries to box them into a safe and prescribed place. Instead, the ACLC has 30 staff spread over eight locations. Besides the clinic, it runs community advocacy and development and training for youth. And she is unequivocally and unrepentantly black. The scrutiny, she says, is classic anti-black racism.
“They came in. They thought they had the Enron of LAO. They thought they had a smoking gun. They didn’t even have a firecracker,” Parsons told the Star in 2003 concerning LAO’s investigation.
The public agency is charged to ensure accountability and transparency in the use of public dollars. This file has consumed time and burned many bridges.
On Thursday Parsons was equally defiant as she walked me through a 10-page spread sheet that documents how and when the clinic has complied with the original eight conditions and their many sub-clauses and added hurdles amounting to more than 30 requirements and demands imposed by LAO.
An observer from LAO attends all ACLC board meetings. The board has at least two lawyers and two members with financial acumen and all have received training as to their duties and responsibilities. There is a financial restructuring plan. The deficit and accrued liabilities are gone. Industry standard policies on use or corporate cards, travel, meals and procurement are in place. There have been audits upon audits and LAO funds are released only under the strictest terms.
Through all this there has never been any charges of fraud — only a decrying of lack of financial controls and practices that were not in keeping with LAO requirements.
“We are 96 per cent completed. I don’t know what else to do under God’s green Earth,” Parsons said Thursday. “Like Sisyphus, I’m rolling that burden called ACLC and I never make it to the mountain top.
“Where is the attorney general? What, you are going to let a 23-year-old institution crumble because of past minor deficiencies. What? We are not worthy of redemption?”
LAO has done its job. It’s time to back off. De-funding the ACLC would be an example of excessive force and an abuse of power.
Royson James’ column appears weekly. firstname.lastname@example.org
Royson James’ column appears weekly. email@example.com
She may have been a prize winner in life, but famous show cow, Charity, had a hard time winning any accolades for her replica version when it had its first showing in Markham two years ago.
The Markham public art advisory committee said nay, twice, to a proposal for the larger than life stainless steel cow statue on stilts, according to minutes from meetings, which weren’t made public until this week.
The statue called Charity: Perpetuation of Perfection, was donated and installed last month by local developer Helen Roman-Barber and has attracted hundreds of curious bovine art critics to the quiet Markham suburb of Cathedraltown, near Elgin Mills Rd and Woodbine Ave.
It has also drawn the ire of residents, who live along Charity Cres., and now go to sleep with the reflection of hoofs and an udder shining into their homes.
“There was no consultation done with the community,” said resident Danny De Silva, who has lived in the area for almost three years. “At first when it was put up, we thought it was a joke,” he said. “But then we realized it’s not going anywhere.”
Councillors, who unanimously approved the display last summer, said they weren’t given the whole story.
“We were never told the public art committee didn’t want the cow,” said Ward 4 councillor Karen Rea. “We were deliberately not given information by staff,” she said. “In my opinion, this is enough. It should be brought back for discussion, and frankly, the statue should be moved.”
The entire cow debacle has left many residents and councillors wondering, in the face of so much opposition, how did the Holstein manage to get hoisted?
“I felt like from day one, there was something wrong with the process,” said Taleen Der Haroutiounian, vice-chair of the art advisory committee. “Even though the committee said no, it seemed like what we were saying didn’t matter,” she said.
The proposal for an 11-metre high cow statue to be placed in a small park, in the centre of a crescent surrounded by homes, first came before the public art committee more than two years ago.
Local developer Helen Roman-Barber proposed the art piece to honour her father, Stephen Roman, who owned Romandale Farm, the land on top of which Cathedraltown now rests.
He bought the “most perfect cow that ever was” Brookview Tony Charity from a farm in Port Perry in 1985 for a then-record $1.45 million. Charity was a nine-time all-Canadian or all-American show cow — and still regarded as the greatest show cow of all time.
Despite the history, the committee felt the cow didn’t fit into its surroundings. In March 2015, committee members rejected the donation after being worried about “safety, esthetics, and the choice of location.”
The next time they said no, in May 2015, the committee said “another location would be suitable” and demanded public consultation.
And yet, months later, after the artist was to meet with the mayor, city staff said it was moving ahead with the project.
“A recommendation is being made by staff to accept the donation of the Charity Sculpture,” according to minutes from April 2016. “If council accepts the donation, all costs including installation of the sculpture will be covered by the donor — Helen Roman-Barber.”
When the matter came to council in June 2016, many of the councillors, including Rea, expressed safety concerns. Deputy Mayor Jack Heath said he wasn’t a “huge fan” and also asked if council was allowed to take a different opinion than the advisory committee. “We wanted to make sure we have the option to say no,” he said, on an audio recording of the meeting, obtained by the Star.
At the time, staff told him that council normally approves recommendations from advisory committees. But the attached minutes from the art committee only showed the staff endorsement, and did not include two other meetings where committee members expressed opposition to the project and rejected it.
Staff said another art committee, the Varley Art Gallery Acquisitions Committee, had endorsed it, but the minutes show, they only approved the donation “in principle”, and also had concerns about “its extreme height.”
Stephen Chait, the director of Culture & Economic Development for the city did not respond to requests for clarification. Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti, did not respond to a request for comment.
Ward 2 Councillor Alan Ho, who seconded the motion at council, says council “was not given accurate information” and supports the community’s opposition to the project. At a heated community meeting last week, he encouraged residents to start a petition opposing the artwork and to attend council in September to tell officials what they think.
Ho hopes to come to a compromise with the community and the developer.
“I think we should try to locate it to a more open space in Cathedraltown or find another creative option,” he said. “I hope the donor will really consider this.”
Residents, who have started a petition, say they also want to find common ground.
“They should drop it down, put up landscaping and make it safer,” said Da Silva. “We also value heritage, but we should make it something that fits into the area,” he said. “Right now, people are laughing at it, and taking selfies milking it. It’s disrespectful.”
But Ed Shiller, a spokesperson for Roman-Barber and her company King David Inc., says the statue was specifically made for this location — and should stay. “Charity is where she belongs,” he said.
NEW YORK—Martin Shkreli, the eccentric former pharmaceutical CEO notorious for a price-gouging scandal and for his snide “Pharma Bro” persona on social media, was convicted Friday on federal charges he deceived investors in a pair of failed hedge funds.
A Brooklyn jury deliberated five days before finding Shkreli guilty on three of eight counts. He had been charged with securities fraud, conspiracy to commit securities fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Shkreli, upbeat and defiant outside court afterward, said he was “delighted to report” that he had been acquitted of what he called “the most important charges” in the case.
Asked about his client’s social-media antics, attorney Ben Brafman conceded it was something they would be working on.
“There is an image issue that Martin and I are going to be discussing in the next few days,” he said, adding that while Shkreli was a brilliant mind, sometimes his “people skills” need work. As he spoke, Shkreli smiled and cocked his head quizzically in mock confusion.
Brafman predicted that Shkreli would someday go on to develop cures to terrible diseases that afflict children.
Prosecutors had accused Shkreli of repeatedly misleading investors about what he was doing with their money. Mostly, he was blowing it with horrible stock picks, forcing him to cook up a scheme to recover millions in losses, they said.
Shkreli, 34, told “lies upon lies,” including claiming he had $40 million (U.S.) in one of his funds at a time when it only had about $300 in the bank, Assistant U.S. Attorney Alixandra Smith said in closing arguments. The trial “has exposed Martin Shkreli for who he really is — a con man who stole millions,” added another prosecutor, Jacquelyn Kasulis.
But the case was tricky for the government because investors who testified conceded that Shkreli’s scheme actually succeeded in making them richer, in some cases doubling or even tripling their money on his company’s stock when it went public. The defence portrayed them as spoiled “rich people” who were the ones doing the manipulating.
“Who lost anything? Nobody,” Brafman said in his closing argument. Some investors had to admit on the witness stand that partnering with Shkreli was “the greatest investment I’ve ever made,” he added.
For the boyish-looking Shkreli, one of the biggest problems was not part of the case — his purchase in 2014 of rights to a life-saving drug that he promptly raised the price from $13.50 to $750 per pill. Several potential jurors were kept off the panel after expressing disdain for the defendant, with one calling him a “snake” and another “the face of corporate greed.”
The defendant also came into the trial with a reputation for trolling his critics on social media to a degree that got him kicked off Twitter and for live-streaming himself giving math lessons or doing nothing more than petting his cat, named Trashy. Among his other antics: boasting about buying a one-of-a-kind Wu-Tang Clan album for $2 million.
During about a month of testimony, Shkreli appeared engaged at times, grinning when his lawyer described him as a misunderstood misfit. Other times he looked bored, staring into space and playing with his hair.
Shkreli, who comes from an Albanian family in Brooklyn, was arrested in 2015 on charges he looted another drug company he founded, Retrophin, of $11 million in stock and cash to pay back the hedge fund investors. Investors took the witness stand to accuse Shkreli of keeping them in the dark as his scheme unfolded.
“I don’t think it mattered to him — it was just what he thought he could get away with,” said Richard Kocher, a New Jersey construction company owner who invested $200,000 with Shkreli in 2012. “It was insulting.”
Shkreli’s lawyer agreed his client could be annoying, saying, “In terms of people skills, he’s impossible,” and referring to him as a “nerd” and a “mad scientist.” But he said his hedge fund investors knew what they were getting.
“They found him strange. They found him weird. And they gave him money. Why? Because they recognized genius,” Brafman said, adding that they had signed agreements that his client wasn’t liable if they lost their money.
Jurors also heard odd vignettes befitting the quirky defendant: how Shkreli slept on the floor of his office in a sleeping bag for two years; how a drug company board member and former American Express executive wrote an email saying he’d meet with Shkreli “only if I can touch your soft skin”; how Shkreli wrote a letter to the wife of an employee threatening to make the family homeless if the man didn’t settle a debt.
Shkreli didn’t testify. But rather than lay low like his lawyers wanted, he got into the act by using Facebook to bash prosecutors and news organizations covering his case. In one recent post, he wrote, “My case is a silly witch hunt perpetrated by self-serving prosecutors. ... Drain the swamp. Drain the sewer that is the (Department of Justice.)”
The judge ordered Shkreli to keep his mouth shut in and around the courtroom after another rant to new reporters covering the trial.
Prosecutors “blame me for everything,” he said. “They blame me for capitalism.”
No sentencing date was set.
After agreeing to continue Shkreli’s $5 million bail, the judge told him: “I wish you well, Mr. Shkreli. See you soon.”
Toronto’s new Medical Officer of Health is calling for a public discussion on the merits of decriminalizing all drugs in the wake of the ongoing overdose epidemic.
“It’s clear that our current approach to drugs in this city and this country doesn’t seem to be having the desired impact,” Dr. Eileen De Villa told reporters Friday at a briefing on how the city is responding to drug users overdosing and, in some cases, dying.
There have been six suspected fatal overdoses since the weekend, including two teens found dead in an Etobicoke highrise. In addition, Toronto emergency wards treated 79 people suspected of overdosing during the last week of July. It’s not yet clear how many were deaths.
Last year, it’s believed more than 2,400 Canadians died as a result of opioid-related overdoses.
On Friday, following Thursday’s emergency meeting of city partners, De Villa reviewed with reporters the city’s overdose prevention strategies which include asking police to carry the fentanyl antidote and speeding up the opening of three safe injection sites.
De Villa said among the 10 key strategies in Toronto’s Overdose Action plan is a call for a public health approach to drug policy that puts the health of the community first, “rather than looking at this as an issue of criminal behavior and or an area for law enforcement.”
The city is convening a committee of health and drug policy experts to explore “a different approach that puts the health of the community first,” she said.
While acknowledging the city doesn’t have the power to change the Criminal Code, “Toronto has always been a leader … in policy and I don’t see why we wouldn’t continue to be a leader on this front,” said De Villa, who stepped into her high-profile position four months ago.
Councillor Joe Mihevc, chair of the board of health, joined De Villa at the briefing and said the generations of the war on drugs has been an “abject failure.”
He said Toronto should be “provoking” the conversation that is happening internationally. About 25 countries, including Portugal, have decriminalized drugs in some form, and next year recreational marijuana will be legal in Canada, he noted.
“Is it appropriate, is it a wise use of public resources to be throwing police, lawyers, courts…the criminal justice system at it, or is it an issue where we throw in a lot more public health staff and nurses? What yields the best result?,” he said.
Mihevc predicted, if the fentanyl crisis deepens in Canada, mayors across the country will begin pressuring the federal government to look at legalizing and regulating illicit drugs.
He drew the connection to the wave of opioid overdoses, where former patients prescribed painkillers, including “nice, white middle-class people,” get hooked, then turn to fentanyl-laced heroin bought on the illegal market. Some traffickers cut their drug supply with fentanyl, a highly potent painkiller.
“If there is a silver lining to the tragedy that we’re living with overdoses, it is provoking a larger conversation on how he have understood drugs, the control of drugs, the illegality of drugs, the ethics of drug use in Canada,” Mihevc said.
OSHAWA, ONT.—Police say a 26-year-old female cyclist has died after being struck by a car east of Toronto earlier this week.
Durham regional police say Emily Sharon Shields of Oshawa, Ont., died Friday after she was take off life support.
Police say she was struck Wednesday morning by a black Ford Crown Victoria sedan that veered out of control. The car then hit a tree.
They say Shields suffered critical injuries and was taken to hospital then later airlifted to a trauma centre in Toronto. The 32-year-old driver sustained minor injuries.
Police say they are also seeking a third vehicle that may have been directly or indirectly involved in the collision.
It is described as a small sedan with black tinted windows, last seen travelling east on Adelaide Ave. toward on Townline Rd. in Oshawa, Ont.
They may drive motorists crazy — and initially cause confusion — but municipalities are increasingly turning to roundabouts as a way to keep traffic flowing and reduce serious accidents.
But with more of these intersections — popular in Europe for over a century, but becoming more common in Ontario only in recent years — it’s time that the Highway Traffic Act is updated to include roundabouts, says a Tory MPP whose Waterloo-area riding is the traffic-circle capital of the province.
“From a motorist’s perspective, I love roundabouts versus intersections,” said Michael Harris (Kitchener-Conestoga). “They are way . . . safer. The biggest thing, when my family is in the van, are the (traditional) intersections, which scare the hell out of me. Even when I go through them, I’m looking left and right,” worrying about serious collisions.
But there are issues with roundabouts and drivers unfamiliar with navigating them — particularly pedestrian safety, which some critics say are the weaknesses of roundabouts.
“Five years ago, there was a major incident in the region where a student was crossing, and she was hit by a bus. And from there we identified that there’s nothing mentioned in the Highway Traffic Act as it pertains to traffic roundabouts,” said Harris, who had been advocating for an update to legislation for several years.
“People struggle. If they are not used to roundabouts, they struggle. My parents, for years, avoided them.”
Waterloo Region now has more than 50 roundabouts. While roundabouts lead to higher accident rates, they are almost all minor fender-benders or side-swipes with little damage and few, if any, injuries — no head-on collisions or T-bone accidents. One local study found that despite the higher numbers of crashes, roundabouts are still are the safer bet.
Ela Shadpour did her master’s thesis at Wilfrid Laurier University on the social cost of roundabouts versus signalled intersections because it was such a hot topic in the local media. The Waterloo Region Record has covered the issue extensively.
Her study found that accident rates are higher —much higher when roundabouts are first installed, compared to signalled intersections — but most of them were minor. Given the nature of the crashes, roundabouts took much less of a toll on drivers and society — less severe injuries, if any, and no fatalities, she found.
Changing lanes or knowing what lane to exit in, “that’s what’s very confusing, at the earliest stages,” said Shadpour. “I really believe as time goes by, people learn how to drive in roundabouts.”
Previous studies have shown that over time, the number of accidents drops.
Ontario’s transportation ministry is involved with roundabout installation when the intersection involves a provincial highway. Sheri Graham, manager of its traffic office, said the first one opened in Picton in 2009, and the province now has about 19 currently in use and another 50-plus on the way.
“Typically (with roundabouts) we see lower speeds, and when it comes to collisions, a lower operating speed can result in a better outcome . . . they are less severe type of collisions, and you don’t necessarily have rear-end collisions,” she said.
Head-on collisions, she added, are eliminated “because all the vehicles are travelling in the same direction. We see more of the side-swipe type of collisions as compared to other types.”
She said pedestrian rules are the same as any intersection.
Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca said current legislation covers pedestrians and roundabouts, which are “safer, more efficient and improve the flow of traffic. All of the elements required to navigate a roundabout are in the Highway Traffic Act. New drivers can also refer to the province’s official driver’s handbook, which includes a section on how to safely drive through roundabouts.
“That being said, we know that there is always more work to be done so we will continue to monitor roundabouts across the province and work with our municipal and road safety partners to make improvements where necessary.”
In Waterloo Region, planners say the safety and traffic flow benefits are behind the boom in roundabouts, and it also means road capacity and traffic flow can be increased without adding lanes.
Bob Henderson, manager of transportation engineering, said roundabouts do take up more land, and that can be an issue. And using them isn’t automatic; the region runs collision prediction models “and there might be areas in the region where a signal will perform really well . . . but in general, roundabouts will result in fewer injuries and fewer fatal injuries.”
He said there is typically about a 20-per-cent increase in collisions with a roundabout versus a traditional intersection, but few injuries.
“We’ve had roundabouts since 2004, and we haven’t incurred any fatal incidents,” Henderson said.
While some have said roundabouts are unfriendly to pedestrians, he said they are used in Waterloo by those walking, on bikes and motorists — even area Mennonites travelling by horse and buggy.
He said the region has asked the province to consider updating driver testing to include roundabouts, in communities where they are located.
Mississauga has also been moving toward roundabouts, saying they mean less travel delays, lower speeds and “fewer conflict points between vehicles,” said Leslie Green, who is manager of transportation projects. She and road safety supervisor Colin Patterson say roundabouts require less maintenance and have no electricity costs. Land needs, however, and construction present extra costs.
The city will soon have four roundabouts — the first one opened in 2011, at Duke of York Blvd. and Square One Dr. — and three more are in the works for 2019.
Like Waterloo, the city launched a public education campaign to help drivers navigate roundabouts, and it says there are fewer collisions at roundabouts than traditional intersections, and no reported incidents involving those on foot or on bike.
Harris has put forward a private member’s bill, the Safe Roundabouts Act, that he said would modernize the Highway Traffic Act to include roundabouts. The bill asks the government to first consult the experts regarding everything from safety to speed limits to signage — including “uniformity of road design standards” to help ease driver confusion.
The CAA of South Central Ontario said it first spoke to Harris five years ago when he began to push for clearer roundabout rules. The CAA supports municipalities in choosing what’s right for the communities, and “we’ve always been supportive of the concept that provides additional safety measures for road users,” said spokesperson Elliott Silverstein.
Harris said there’s inconsistency for pedestrians as well, with some intersections where they have the right of way and others where they yield to traffic.
“We are seeing more and more communities with roundabouts,” he said. “Now is the time to get it right.”
Police have charged a driver following a deadly collision in Mississauga on Wednesday and are asking for the public’s help for information.
Kasim Khurami, 62, from Mississauga, was crossing the street when a gray Mazda sedan made a turn and hit him. Khurami was pronounced dead on scene.
The collision occurred at the intersection of Edwards Blvd. and Topflight Dr., near Hurontario St. and the 407, at midnight.
The driver, who wasn’t hurt, left the scene but returned later, said Peel police Const. Mark Fischer.
Ramesh Banjara, 55, from Brampton, has been charged with failing to stop at the scene of an accident causing death.
Police are asking for anyone with information or footage of the collision to contact the Major Collision Bureau or Peel Crime Stoppers.
WASHINGTON—The waters of the so-called swamp are starting to rise around Donald Trump, with various creatures of Washington’s political marshes threatening his presidency from multiple angles.
Consider about nine developments of the last few days in a town derided by the president as an amphibian-infested bog.
First, the special investigator in the Russia affair has empanelled a grand jury, according to multiple reports. Second, lawmakers from both parties are co-operating to craft different bills that would curb Trump’s ability to fire the investigator.
Third, the attorney general Trump mused about firing has been promised his job is secure. Republican lawmakers have brushed off three demands from the president: on Russia sanctions, on health care, on adjusting procedural rules — that’s four, five and six. A pair of Republicans have just released books criticizing the president.
Eight, his own party’s senators have blocked him from making appointments during the summer break; they used a rare parliamentary gimmick to thwart him. And to cap it all off, Trump’s critics have been emboldened by a new dip in his poll numbers.
This is all happening by the end of the first congressional session of the Trump presidency, which is concluding this week with senators heading off on their summer recess. On their way out the door, they stiff-armed questions about their president.
One Republican walking down the hallway shrugged when asked whether the president understands the health law he wants them to pass: “I certainly wouldn’t want to comment on what the president understands and doesn’t understand.”
Their mood has been hardening against the commander-in-chief.
Republicans have made it clear they’re unhappy Trump threatened one of their old colleagues — former senator, now Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Trump has just fired two party establishment figures from his White House staff. He then fuelled rumours he might fire Sessions out of frustration with his refusal to defend the president in the Russia affair.
Democrats say they hear the grumbling from Republican colleagues.
Sen. Ron Wyden, a member of the intelligence committee investigating Russian collusion, says he’s convinced any move to fire special investigator Robert Mueller would trigger a constitutional crisis.
“I’ve seen a real change in tone (from the Republicans),” he said. “I’ll leave it at that.”
Mark Warner, another Democrat on the committee, said he’s noticed the same shift: “Republican colleagues have said (firing Mueller) would be the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency.
“I think you would see widespread bipartisan support to put back in place (a new special investigator).”
In fact, two groups of senators, from both parties, have already started crafting bills to restore an investigator if Trump fires Mueller. It now appears unlikely that Trump will fire the attorney general to get a new one who might fire Mueller.
Republicans have rebelled against the idea, saying they will not confirm a replacement for Sessions.
One Trump-skeptical Republican senator, Lindsey Graham, said in an interview with The Canadian Press that nobody in the Republican caucus would accept the special counsel being fired without just cause.
Graham is doing his part to protect the investigator — he’s co-sponsored one of the bills that would set limits on the president’s ability to oust him.
Mueller is under assault from the president’s staunchest supporters.
Trump boosters are promoting the idea of firing him in part because inquiry staff donated to Democrats. But Graham said that, as a lawyer himself, he doesn’t see that as a disqualifier. He pointed out that most members of the Kenneth Starr team that investigated Bill Clinton were Republicans.
As for Sessions’s job security, Graham said: “I’ve never felt better about Jeff.”
Meanwhile, lawmakers thumbed their nose at Trump and voted overwhelmingly to limit his ability to eliminate sanctions. When Russia protested, Trump called lawmakers a bunch of big-talking, do-nothings who can’t even pass a health law.
In fact, several are now working to protect Obamacare and keep it from collapsing — once again, in defiance of the president’s wishes. One of the lawmakers who voted to preserve Obamacare, Sen. John McCain, even taunted the president over his Russia remarks.
He responded to a presidential tweet with one of his own: “You can thank Putin for attacking our democracy, invading neighbours & threatening our allies.”
And then news broke late Thursday in the Wall Street Journal that Mueller had called in a grand jury in his Russia investigation. The probe appears to have grown from a look at election collusion to broader issues involving financial crimes, based on the expertise of the lawyers he’s hired.
So, what does that mean?
A former assistant Watergate prosecutor and federal prosecutor says it means 23 people have been selected to be on a grand jury, and rather than simply interviewing witnesses in an office, they can summon them to give formal testimony, then consider charges.
In case that wasn’t clear enough, Nick Akerman adds: “Because the prosecutors want to take testimony under oath and may be heading toward indictments.”
Investigators working for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, recently asked the White House for documents related to former national security adviser Michael Flynn and have questioned witnesses about whether he was secretly paid by the Turkish government during the final months of the presidential campaign, according to people close to the investigation.
Although not a formal subpoena, the document request is the first known instance of Mueller’s team asking the White House to hand over records.
In interviews with potential witnesses in recent weeks, prosecutors and FBI agents have spent hours poring over the details of Flynn’s business dealings with a Turkish-American businessman who worked last year with Flynn and his consulting business, the Flynn Intel Group.
The company was paid $530,000 (U.S.) to run a campaign to discredit an opponent of the Turkish government who has been accused of orchestrating last year’s failed coup in the country.
Investigators want to know if the Turkish government was behind those payments — and if the Flynn Intel Group made kickbacks to the businessman, Ekim Alptekin, for helping conceal the source of the money.
The line of questioning shows that Mueller’s inquiry has expanded into a full-fledged examination of Flynn’s financial dealings, beyond the relatively narrow question of whether he failed to register as a foreign agent or lied about his conversations and business arrangements with Russian officials.
Flynn lasted only 24 days as national security adviser, but his legal troubles now lie at the centre of a political storm that has engulfed the Trump administration. For months, prosecutors have used multiple grand juries to issue subpoenas for documents related to Flynn.
U.S. President Donald Trump has publicly said Mueller should confine his investigation to the narrow issue of Russia’s attempts to disrupt last year’s presidential campaign, not conduct an expansive inquiry into the finances of Trump or his associates.
Flynn declined to comment. Ty Cobb, special counsel to Trump, said, “We’ve said before we’re collaborating with the special counsel on an ongoing basis.”
“It’s full co-operation mode as far as we are concerned,” he said.
After Flynn’s dismissal, Trump tried to get James Comey, the FBI director, to drop the investigation, Comey said.
Mueller is investigating whether Trump committed obstruction of justice in pressing for an end to the Flynn inquiry. The president fired Comey on May 9.
Investigators are also examining the flow of money into and out of the Flynn Intel Group — a consulting firm Flynn founded after being forced out as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency — according to several potential witnesses who have been interviewed by prosecutors and FBI agents.
Taking money from Turkey or any foreign government is not illegal. But failing to register as a foreign agent is a felony, and trying to hide the source of the money by routing it through a private company or some other entity, and then paying kickbacks to the middleman, could lead to numerous criminal charges, including fraud.
Prosecutors have also asked during interviews about Flynn’s speaking engagements for Russian companies, for which he was paid more than $65,000 in 2015, and about his company’s clients — including work it may have done with the Japanese government.
They have also asked about the White Canvas Group, a data-mining company that was reportedly paid $200,000 by the Trump campaign for unspecified services. The Flynn Intel Group shared office space with White Canvas Group, which was founded by a former special operations officer who was a friend of Flynn’s.
Flynn has now had to file three versions of his financial-disclosure forms. His first version did not disclose payments from Russia-linked companies. He added those payments to an amended version of the forms he submitted in March. This week he filed a new version, adding that he briefly had a contract with SCL Group, the parent company of Cambridge Analytica, a data-mining firm that worked with the Trump campaign.
The new forms list at least $1.8 million in income, up from the roughly $1.4 million he had previously reported. It is unclear how much of that money was related to work Flynn did on Turkey issues.
Flynn’s campaign to discredit the opponent of the Turkish government, Fethullah Gulen, began Aug. 9 when his firm signed a $600,000 deal with Inovo BV, a Dutch company owned by Alptekin, a Turkish-American businessman.
Gulen, a reclusive cleric, lives in rural Pennsylvania.
The contract with Alptekin was brought in by Bijan R. Kian, an Iranian-American businessman who was one Flynn’s business partners. Kian, who served until 2011 as a director of the Export-Import Bank, a U.S. federal agency, is also under scrutiny, according to witnesses questioned by Mueller’s investigators. A lawyer for Kian declined to comment.
Inovo ultimately paid the Flynn Intel Group only $530,000 and received little more than slapdash research and a comically inept attempt to make an anti-Gulen video, which was never completed. The entire enterprise would probably have gone unnoticed if Flynn had not written an opinion piece advocating improved relations between Turkey and the United States and calling Gulen “a shady Islamic mullah.”
The opinion piece appeared on Election Day. Soon after, the Daily Caller revealed that the Flynn Intel Group had a contract with Inovo, prompting the Justice Department to look into Flynn’s relationship with Alptekin.
Authorities quickly determined that Flynn had not registered as a foreign agent, as required by law. In March, he retroactively registered with the Justice Department.
Mueller’s investigators have asked repeatedly about two payments of $40,000 each that the Flynn Intel Group made to Inovo, said witnesses who have been interviewed in the case.
The investigators have indicated that they suspect that the payments were kickbacks and, in one interview, pointed to the suspicious timing of the transfers. The first payment back to Inovo was made Sept. 13, four days after the Dutch company made its first payout under the contract, sending $200,000 to the Flynn Intel Group.
On Oct. 11, Inovo paid the Flynn Intel Group an additional $185,000. Then, six days later, Flynn Intel Group sent $40,000 to Inovo.
Alptekin said that both payments were refunds for work that the Flynn Intel Group had not completed.
“Ekim maintains that all payments and refunds were for unfulfilled work and that they were legal, ethical and above board,” said Molly Toomey, a spokeswoman for Alptekin. She described the reimbursements as “a business decision.”
Another focus for investigators is the repeatedly changing explanation Alptekin has offered for why he hired Flynn. In March, he told a reporter that Flynn had been hired “to produce geopolitical analysis on Turkey and the region” for an Israeli energy company. But in an interview with the New York Times in June, he said he wanted a credible U.S. firm to help discredit Gulen, whom President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has blamed for the coup attempt.
“Like many Americans rolling up their sleeves in 9/11 to do something, I decided to do something,” Alptekin said.
He scoffed at the suggestion that he was a front for the Turkish government. Inovo, he noted, was registered in the Netherlands, where it is difficult to mask the ownership of a company. A clear paper trail linked the payments between his company and the Flynn Intel Group, he said.
“If we were trying to hide,” he said, “you’d think we’d be good at it.”
In a rare move, Ontario’s top court has ordered a third trial in the same first-degree murder case, lambasting the Crown’s key evidence: an expert witness whose testimony about gang members with teardrop tattoos contained “inaccuracies” and even “falsehoods.”
At the second trial for Warren Nigel Abbey related to the 2004 murder of Simeon Peter in Scarborough, sociologist Mark Totten testified that a teardrop tattoo meant one of the three things: the individual had lost a loved one or fellow gang member, had spent time in prison or had killed a rival gang member.
The Crown alleged that Abbey was an associate of the Malvern Crew gang who shot and killed Peter, mistakenly believing he was a member of the rival Galloway Boys, and that Abbey had a teardrop tattooed under his right eye about four months later.
Abbey was acquitted at his first trial— in which Totten was not permitted to give evidence — but the Crown appealed and at the second trial, where Totten did testify, the jury convicted Abbey.
In a decision released Friday, the Ontario Court of Appeal largely sided with Abbey’s lawyers and found Totten’s evidence “unreliable,” that he “misrepresented” the sample size of gang members in some of his studies, and that statistics he provided on the stand about gang members with teardrop tattoos are nowhere to be found in his studies.
The court also stated there is a “legitimate concern that Totten’s interview summaries are fabrications” in two of his studies, which contain the same quotes from three participants. Totten had denied in a different court case that he used the same gang members in more than one study.
“I have concluded that the fresh evidence shows Totten’s opinion evidence on the meaning of a teardrop tattoo to be too unreliable to be heard by a jury. If the trial judge had known about the fresh evidence he would have ruled Totten’s evidence inadmissible,” Court of Appeal Justice John Laskin wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel.
“And the absence of Totten’s evidence would reasonably be expected to have affected the jury’s verdict. I would admit the fresh evidence, allow Abbey’s appeal, overturn his conviction and order a new trial.”
Abbey has been in prison since his conviction at his second trial in 2011.
He will be applying for release pending a retrial, his lawyers told the Star on Friday.
“We are gratified that the court found, as we had argued, that this Crown witness’s evidence was unreliable and dangerous,” said David E. Harris and Ravin Pillay in an emailed statement.
“This is another example of how expert evidence can mislead a jury and contribute to an unsafe conviction.”
Totten did not return the Star’s requests for comment Friday.
Neither side opted to seek permission from the Court of Appeal to call Totten to respond to the issues with his research and evidence.
“As Totten has not been directly confronted with some of these deficiencies and inaccuracies in his testimony and research I think it would be unfair to make the positive finding that Abbey urges us to make: Totten fabricated or concocted part of his research, or gave deliberately misleading testimony,” Laskin wrote.
“But when assessing the reliability of Totten’s opinion, I see nothing unfair in taking into account that the many serious problems in both Totten’s evidence and research, which were identified by the fresh evidence, remain entirely unexplained.”
It will be up to the Crown to decide if it actually wants to re-prosecute Abbey a third time. A spokesperson for the Ministry of the Attorney General declined to comment because the matter is “within the appeal period.” (The Crown has 30 days to decide if it wants to seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.)
The Court of Appeal had harsh words for the position of the Crown in the appeal, given the fact that the “fresh evidence” — the issues with Totten’s research — was brought to the forefront under cross-examination by Crown attorney Mary Misener (now a judge) in a separate case, R v. Gager, where that time it was the defence trying to have Totten admitted as an expert.
The cross-examination took place during a hearing known as a voir dire, to determine if Totten should be qualified as an expert witness for the trial.
“Totten was the Crown’s witness, a key witness for the Crown (at the Abbey trial). Yet in Gager the Crown sought to impeach Totten’s credibility and the reliability of his evidence on several matters that were relevant to his opinion in this trial,” Laskin wrote.
“And then on this appeal the Crown made no attempt to contest the deficiencies, inaccuracies, and even falsehoods in Totten’s trial testimony, as demonstrated by the fresh evidence.
“The Crown is not an ordinary litigant. Its role is not to obtain a conviction, but to try to ensure a fair process and a just result. The Crown has impeached Totten, its own key witness, albeit in another proceeding, and yet by its silence in this proceeding must be taken not to have challenged the many serious problems in Totten’s trial testimony shown by the fresh evidence.”
The judge in the Gager case ultimately qualified Totten as a witness, despite expressing some reservations with his evidence, but neither side ended up calling him to the stand at trial.
“I made mistakes, there’s no question about that,” Totten told the Star at the time. “I’ve got no problem stating that. It’s the job of a lawyer to attack you as an expert witness. Some experts can handle it, others can’t. Obviously, I didn’t handle it very well.”
In Friday’s appeal decision, Laskin pointed out that the defence in the Abbey case could have raised the issues with Totten’s research at Abbey’s previous trial, but that it would be a “miscarriage of justice” not to admit the fresh evidence now because it is so compelling.
The appeal court went as far as saying that if the Crown had not been permitted to lead with Totten’s evidence on teardrop tattoos at the second trial, “it could reasonably be expected the verdict would have been different.”
Among the reasons for that conclusion, Laskin noted that the rest of the Crown’s case “was not overly strong,” which included poor eyewitness testimony and “problematic” evidence from three Malvern Crew members whose testimony implicated Abbey.
Their testimony “was severely compromised” by inconsistencies and “their unsavoury pasts,” Laskin wrote. He said two of them had been granted immunity by the Crown on a number of serious offences in exchange for their testimony, while the third member, who testified at the first Abbey trial, refused to testify at the second. His testimony from the first trial was read into the record at the second trial.
A Toronto police constable accused of groping and making lewd comments to a female colleague is facing new disciplinary charges related to another female officer.
Const. Usman Haroon punched a fellow officer in the arm following a disagreement in April 2009, according to a disciplinary hearing notice. A second hearing notice says Haroon “slapped (the woman) on the buttocks” while responding to a call “sometime between September of 2007 and April of 2009.”
Haroon made his first appearance at the police disciplinary tribunal on two charges of discreditable conduct contrary to Ontario’s Police Services Act in June.
All allegations stem from Haroon’s time at 14 Division. He has since been transferred to 11 Division.
Haroon now faces a total of 11 disciplinary charges, including nine previously reported by Metro.
They include allegations that he placed his hand on a fellow officer’s upper leg while on duty in November 2015. The following day, he moved her hand toward his groin while travelling in a police car and placed his hand on her buttocks as she left an elevator, according to tribunal hearing notices.
Haroon also “made comments of a sexual nature” toward the officer and “engaged in unwanted physical contact by grasping a print roller, which was lodged between (the officer’s) legs,” according to tribunal notices.
Haroon has not responded to multiple requests for comment.
Four years after rock legend Ronnie Hawkins failed to sell his 175-acre Hawkstone Manor, it’s back on the market — for $10.65-million less.
In 2013, Hawkins listed his home and its 3,300 feet of Stoney Lake frontage for $14.9 million.
This summer, the more than 5,600 square feet of home — split between a main house and two guest cottages — is up for sale for a more modest $4.25 million.
“My wife says we’re moving closer to the doctors and the hospital. That’s what she says about me because I’ve got one foot in the grave and another in a pile of WD40 so she’s looking after me,” says the 82-year-old Hawkins with his Arkansas twang inside his home of 46 years on a phone he says is “messed up.”
The home is lined with thousands of framed photos and memorabilia of the famous rocker and his friends, including his Order of Canada medal — one of just a few given to non-Canadians.
“Well I’ll tell ya, we’ve had an awful lot of people here — superstars — over the years,” he said, laughing. “In fact, if this house could write a book, a bunch of them would have to leave the country!”
Dubbed “Canada’s Graceland,” it has welcomed John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Oscar Peterson, Blue Rodeo, Garth Hudson, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel, Mickey Jones, David Clayton-Thomas and Ian and Sylvia Tyson, among others.
Rush’s double-platinum album Moving Pictures, including its smash hit “Tom Sawyer,” was recorded in Hawkins’s barn while the band lived in his home.
“It says on the back ‘the best sound they ever got’ and it was the biggest album at the time. They recorded at the Ronnie Hawkins farm right here on Stoney Lake,” he adds of himself.
Kenny Rogers once recorded music in Hawkins’s living room, too.
“The Hawk,” who has recently battled pancreatic cancer and is a candidate for cataracts surgery, continues to live life to the full and open his home up to his friends, according to those around him.
Last year, Gordon Lightfoot — who wrote his hit “Sundown” at one of the property’s cottages — returned to Hawkstone Manor with Kris Kristofferson to record a new version of “Me And Bobby McGee.”
But now Hawkins, a pioneer of rock and roll and friend to Bob Dylan and President Bill Clinton, is moving on and downsizing with his wife Wanda.
“It’s time. I can’t look after it anymore and I can’t play any dates. As long as I could play dates I could keep it up but I can’t anymore so we decided to sell this beautiful place baby,” Hawkins said, laughing again. “It’s one of the bestest I’ve ever seen. I’ve got to stop chasing the girls, I guess.”
Ross Halloran, the couple’s real estate agent, hopes a potential buyer will be someone who intends to build a family compound and continue the property’s rich history of entertainment and hosting in the Kawarthas.
“They have become synonymous with the area. It’s just a wonderful focal point in Canada,” said Halloran, who describes the home as a museum but understands new ownership may want to knock it down — hence the $10-million discount.
“When people come and look at Hawkstone Manor, they don’t just see a piece of property, they see a piece of Canadian musical history.”
Wanda’s convinced theirs is the most beautiful property on Stoney Lake.
“We have an incredible view. The sun sets here every day and the sky changes colours and it reflects off the water, it’s just the most beautiful place to be,” she said. “We’re excited to pass this beautiful property onto someone who will enjoy it as much as we have.”
An early-morning blast rocked the Dar Al Farooq mosque in Bloomington, Minnesota, on Saturday, as worshippers had just begun to gather inside for morning prayers.
No injuries were reported. The building sustained damage to its front, and photographs from the scene showed a large shattered window, singed blinds and charring around the outside.
Police said Saturday afternoon that a “preliminary investigation indicates the explosion was caused by a destructive device.”
They announced that the Minnesota office of the FBI would take the lead on the investigation. Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were also on the scene.
The explosion was reported to police around 5 a.m., and they found “smoke and some damage” upon arriving. Mike Hartley, deputy police chief in Bloomington, said there was no structural damage to the building, but he declined to elaborate on any damage inside.
In a news conference, Mohamed Omar, executive director of the mosque, said the explosion had occurred “in the direction of the imam’s room.”
He said one member of the congregation immediately ran outside to see what had happened, and “saw a truck fleeing from the parking lot.”
While police had not determined a motive, community members and interfaith leaders of various congregations responded to the episode as yet another attack on a Muslim place of worship.
“We’re here all together in order to defend the values of our country, the values of our faith, the values of our people,” said Hamdy El-Sawaf, president of the board of the Islamic Community Center of Minnesota. “No matter what happens, small or big, it will never scare us, it will never bring us to our knees. We’re here to help each other, to support each other.”
Omar was joined by dozens of community members, with some in the crowd holding signs of support proclaiming, “All are welcome here.”
“What I would say is an attack on a mosque is an attack on a synagogue, it’s an attack on a church, it’s an attack on all faith communities, so we stand with you, a million Protestants in Minnesota,” said the Rev. Curtiss DeYoung, chief executive of the Minnesota Council of Churches.
The mosque had recently been the target of harassment, receiving threatening and hateful messages, Omar told The Star Tribune.
“People talking about us, telling us, accusing us that we shouldn’t be here, that we are like a burden to the community or we are like harming it,” Omar said.
SIDNEY, B.C.—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took an unscheduled dip on Saturday when he fell into the water trying to get into a kayak.
He kept his head above water, but much of the rest of his body was briefly submerged and his left leg was pointed straight upwards while he grabbed hold of the kayak. The spill happened at the shoreline where the water was shallow.
Trudeau, who was wearing a flotation vest, emerged from the spill with a smile on his face. His wife Sophie managed to manoeuvre her kayak without incident.
“I’m just happy the national media was there to capture that,” he joked.
The prime minister’s kayak voyage at the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve near Victoria became even more eventful when a bride and groom sailed up beside his kayak to pose for a selfie with Trudeau.
Michelle Gruetzner was wearing her white wedding dress.
She said she and her husband, Heiner Gruetzner, were holding their wedding reception on nearby Sidney Spit when they approached the prime minister. Trudeau kissed the bride, twice.
“He said, ‘I’m not going to take my shirt off this time,’ ” said Michelle, referring to Trudeau’s shirtless beach side appearance at a wedding ceremony last summer at Tofino, on the Island’s west coast.
Michelle said she appreciated the kisses more than a shirtless prime minister.
“It’s a nice addition to the photo album,” said Heiner.
Trudeau was to travel in Tofino Saturday afternoon to take part in a roundtable with Indigenous and regional leaders.
At a beach side news conference, Trudeau said he’s deeply aware of the need to protect West Coast waters from pollution threats, but also keenly attuned to the benefits of building a strong economy while respecting the environment.
Trudeau’s government has approved Kinder Morgan’s $7.4-billion Trans Mountain 1,150-kilometre pipeline expansion project from Alberta to B.C.’s coast. The twin pipeline development will greatly increase Canada’s oil export capacity but also increases oil tanker traffic along the coast.
“I have been out on these waters all my life, whether it was sailing off of English Bay . . . whether it was swimming out here at my aunt’s place near Brentwood Bay, and I have been a grandson of B.C. all my life and understand how important it is to protect these waters.”
Trudeau spent several days over the past week in B.C., making stops in Revelstoke, Williams Lake, Vancouver and Victoria.
He acknowledged the efforts of firefighters in B.C.’s Interior region during a daylong visit to Williams Lake, where more than 10,000 people were recently evacuated from their homes to escape the threat of a wildfire.
Trudeau and B.C. Premier John Horgan also took an aerial tour of the fire zone in B.C.’s central Interior on board a Canadian Armed Forces Chinook helicopter. At times the smoke from the surrounding fires was so thick, the ground below was barely visible.
Trudeau spoke on Friday night to about 100 people gathered for a Liberal party event at a hotel in Victoria, B.C., saying the party must continue to bring forward new ideas that make Canada stronger.
“We need to be reaching out and having difficult and reasonable conversations, anchoring ourselves in evidence and facts,” he said.
Trudeau said the economy, environment and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples must become constant conversations across Canada.
“We can’t walk away from the reality of climate change,” he said.
ROME—A 30-year-old man has been arrested in the alleged kidnapping of a young British model who thought she was coming to Milan for a photo shoot, but instead was drugged, hustled away in a suitcase and handcuffed in a house in northern Italy before being released, Milan police said Saturday.
Police released a mug shot of the suspect whom they identified as Lukasz Pawel Herba, a Polish citizen with British residency. He was jailed for investigation of suspected kidnapping for extortion purposes, police said.
Police official Lorenzo Bucossi told reporters the 20-year-old woman had come to Milan for what she thought was a photo shoot and was abducted on July 11.
A statement from Milan police headquarters detailed the woman’s ordeal.
“Attacked, drugged, handcuffed and closed inside a suitcase, that’s how a 20-year-old English model was kidnapped on July 11 in Milan to be sold to the best offer on pornography sites,” on the internet, the statement said.
The suspect was arrested on July 18, the day after he allegedly released the woman and dropped her off at the British consulate in Milan, police said.
The woman had arrived in Milan on July 10 and was supposed to do the photography session the next day, the statement said. A photographer had booked the session through the model’s agent, but as soon as she stepped inside the Milan apartment for the appointment, she was attacked by two men, according to the police account.
“The kidnappers loaded the suitcase with the girl (inside) into a car trunk” and drove to a rural home in a hamlet outside Turin, the statement said. In the house, “the model was kept handcuffed to a wooden dresser in a bedroom” until she was released on July 17, the police said.
Police suspect the Polish man advertised the “sale” of the woman online, while at the same time demanding ransom from the woman’s agent of about $380,000.
Authorities said as far as they know, no ransom was paid. An investigation is being conducted in Poland and Britain as well as in Italy. Investigators are trying to determine if the suspect had accomplices and was mainly after ransom, or was trying to defraud someone who might have been willing to pay money online for the woman, police said.
They didn’t identify the model’s agent.
Milan daily Corriere della Sera said the kidnapper let his victim go because he discovered she had a child and considered her unsuitable for the sex trade. But the police official, Lorenzo Bucossi, told reporters it was unclear why the woman was released.
MONTREAL—Groups of men and women walk toward the metal security barrier outside the stadium, shielding their faces from media cameras with their hands or T-shirts. Others pass by dragging suitcases, carrying babies. Still more exit crowded buses, squinting through the sunshine at the underbelly of the giant stadium.
Fleeing danger, fleeing poverty, fleeing anxieties of America and the dead end of their hopes there — all to wind up at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, sleeping on cots in a structure that looks like a concrete spaceship. Thanks to an attention-grabbing government decision this week, the centrepiece of the ’76 Summer Games has become the first Canadian home for scores of asylum seekers with origins in Haiti, Nigeria, Turkey, Mexico and elsewhere who’ve come here to try to start a new life.
Inancien Milien appeared overwhelmed as he tried to explain what it feels like. He was brought to the stadium Wednesday after walking into Canada at the Lacolle border crossing, south of Montreal. Originally from Haiti, he said he lived in the U.S. for 17 years before he decided to join the surge of his compatriots entering Canada.
Like many others, Milien said he was propelled by the disquiet of immigration policy under President Donald Trump. There is also a distinct impression, held by many asylum seekers, that Canada, with its refugee-hugging prime minister, will be a more welcoming place.
“It’s a dream. This is what we are looking for,” said Milien, who was leaving the stadium with two other men to meet a refugee lawyer in the city.
“I have no anxieties since I’ve arrived here in Canada.”
That contrast between the U.S. and Canada, in perception and reality, has been a central theme in the ongoing saga of asylum seekers who are breaking the law by walking across the border into this country. Quebec has borne the brunt of their arrival; according to federal government figures for the first half of the year, 3,350 of the 4,345 people intercepted by RCMP as they crossed into Canada were in Quebec.
In recent weeks there has been a surge of hundreds more. The agency that supports these asylum claimants in Quebec, PRAIDA, took on 1,674 new people in July — more than double the number in June. And on Thursday, Quebec’s immigration minister said the number of asylum seekers entering the province tripled to 150 from 50 a day last month.
PRAIDA said many of the people arriving recently are from Haiti, which again has drawn attention to Trump. In May, the White House announced it would lift an Obama-era policy that prevented Haitians seeking asylum in the U.S. from being deported to their home country. An estimated 40,000 people could be affected when this policy expires in January, prompting some to seek safe haven in Canada.
Shelters in Montreal reached their capacity in July, hence the need for the Olympic Stadium. Mayor Denis Coderre told reporters Thursday they’re working to make sure there are 600 beds in the Olympic Stadium, though as of Friday afternoon 132 people were staying there, said PRAIDA spokesperson Emmanuelle Paciullo.
The situation has fuelled continued calls from refugee advocate groups— as well as the federal NDP — to suspend the Safe Third Country agreement. The accord says asylum seekers arriving in Canada or the U.S. must claim refuge in the first country in which they land, but a loophole exists that critics of the agreement say encourages people to take desperate measures by walking into the country: the agreement doesn’t apply to people who “cross irregularly” by avoiding border posts.
But for people from Haiti trying to avoid deportation in the U.S., Canada isn’t a sure bet either. Last summer, Ottawa lifted its own order that allowed asylum seekers from Haiti who would otherwise be deported to stay because of poor conditions and potential danger in that country.
In an email Friday, Hursh Jaswal, spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Ahmed Hussen, said that the deportation suspension for Haitians was briefly reinstated last fall after a hurricane, but the government now treats asylum seekers from the country the same as any other.
However, he said deportation orders can be appealed and that “the decision to remove anyone from Canada is not taken lightly.”
It was all just wind to Frantz Eustache Saint Jean. The 30-year-old walked into Canada at the Lacolle crossing with his pregnant wife last weekend. He shrugged as he explained how the police officers at the border patted down his wife and him, searched their belongings and brought them to an inspection station for processing.
After spending three months in the U.S., he said he was relieved to be in Montreal and felt confident that he would be able to stay. It’s just too dangerous in Haiti, he said, where his wife was “extremely persecuted.”
He didn’t want to elaborate.
“I’d prefer to keep silent,” he said. “There is a crisis in that country.”
Moments later, Thelyson Orelien ambled down a concrete ramp to the entrance of the Olympic Stadium. At 29, the blogger and library worker said he came to Canada from Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, which killed an estimated 160,000 people and left hundreds of thousands more sick, injured and homeless.
He was among several people who came to the stadium to help. He’d just spent the morning with one of its new denizens, helping him convert money into Canadian currency and figure out how to navigate Montreal’s bus system.
“It’s certain that there are many who will be returned (to Haiti),” Orelien said, arguing that the U.S. is no longer respecting international law and Canada should accept people fleeing that country.
“There are people who have already built a life in the United States, who have bought a house, who work there, who already have a family . . . . Should those people have to sell everything, to cancel everything?”
As he spoke, three others approached the stadium — Montrealers from the local Haitian community who’d heard news stories about what was happening. Among them was Célienne François, who was pushing her daughter, Oriana, in a stroller.
“I know there are young mothers inside,” she said. “It touches my heart because, these are children here, (and) they have to start again at zero.
“If I can volunteer, or give some food, or give them a roof over their heads — whatever to help. I felt they are my compatriots.”
Meanwhile, in Montreal’s north end, Marjorie Villefrance was also busy trying to figure out how to support these newcomers. As executive director of the city’s Maison d’Haïti community centre, she said she’s been alarmed in the past eight weeks — since the U.S. move to change its policy on temporary Haitian residents — to see the rising number of asylum claimants walking into Canada.
“At the beginning it was three, four families per week, then it was 20 per week and now it is 20 per day,” she said, speaking in her office Thursday.
There have been surges like this before, she said, but what makes this one different are the rumours. Social media is abuzz with conversation that Justin Trudeau promised to “welcome everybody” into Canada — a falsehood possibly derived from his much-discussed statement on Twitter, when Trump unveiled his first refugee and immigration restrictions, that Canadians would welcome “those fleeing terror, persecution & war.”
“People are recounting this, so they enter. This is a new phenomenon,” Villefrance said.
To solve the situation for Haitians, she’d like to see the government institute a special program similar to the push to bring in Syrian refugees.
“I see people risking everything to travel, to come here — fleeing from their country,” she said, arguing that Ottawa’s decision to lift the moratorium on Haitian deportation was wrong.
“We can officially say the situation (there) has improved, but that’s not what we’re finding.”
On Friday, Trudeau urged would-be migrants to respect Canada’s border with the U.S.
The prime minister took pains to reassure Canadians that the country has the resources and the capacity to deal with the sudden spike in asylum seekers crossing into Quebec, but he also made it clear that anyone who is caught trying to enter the country illegally would be required to navigate the proper immigration channels.
“We want migration to Canada to be done in an orderly fashion; there’s border checkpoints and border controls that we need to make sure are respected,” Trudeau said at the Glengarry Highland Games in eastern Ontario.
Across town in Montreal, Aristide Joseph leaned on a wooden bench outside a YMCA that is packed with newcomers from Burundi, Brazil, Haiti and elsewhere. Joseph, 40, said he fled Haiti after the 2010 earthquake and lived in Orlando, Fla., for three years. But he couldn’t find work, and a lawyer there told him he likely wouldn’t get citizenship, so he walked across the border to Canada a few weeks ago, he said.
Like many others on the benches around him, and in the stadium across town, Joseph said he feels better being in Montreal, even though he’s alone. His eyes glazed over with tears as he spoke about his wife, two 14-year-old sons and 7-year-old daughter. They’re still in Haiti, he said.
“There is a lot of trouble and insecurity there,” he said.
One day he hopes to bring them here, to be Canadians together.
With files from The Canadian Press
With files from The Canadian Press
NEW YORK—Less than an hour after a U.S. jury convicted Martin Shkreli of securities fraud, the so-called “Pharma Bro” was back at his New York City apartment doing what comes naturally: trash talking in a live-stream on YouTube.
The brash former pharmaceutical CEO, who’s still out on bail, joked he won’t be going to a hard-core prison — “No shanks” — and predicted his acquittal on some charges Friday will help him recover tens of millions of dollars he claims he’s owed from a drug company he started.
“It doesn’t seem like life will change much for Martin Shkreli,” he said while drinking a beer and playing with his cat. “I’m one of the richest New Yorkers there is, and after today’s outcome, it’s going to stay that way.”
Shkreli’s trolling of his own trial has amused some onlookers. But legal experts say it could have serious consequences when it comes time for sentencing.
“No real good can come from going on YouTube after a guilty verdict,” said Robert Mintz, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice. “This is exactly the kind of behaviour that got him in trouble in the first place.”
U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto likely will factor in any lack of remorse and contrition at sentencing in federal court in Brooklyn, said Matthew Schwartz, a defence lawyer and former federal prosecutor who once worked for a Securities and Exchange Commission task force.
“Going into the trial, he had an audience of 12. Now he’s got an audience of one,” Schwartz said, referring to the jury and judge. “He’s putting himself at great risk for a higher sentence.”
The 34-year-old defendant faces up to 20 years in prison for his conviction on the most serious counts, though the term could be much lower under sentencing guidelines. Shkreli’s lawyer, Ben Brafman, said he would argue for no jail time. No sentencing date was set.
Shkreli was arrested in 2015 on charges he looted a drug company he founded, Retrophin, of $11 million (U.S.) in stock and cash to pay back investors in two failed hedge funds he ran. Investors took the witness stand to accuse him of keeping them in the dark as his scheme unfolded, while the defence argued there wasn’t any harm done because all of them got rich off of Retrophin stock.
Before his arrest, Shkreli was best known for buying the rights to a life-saving drug at another company in 2014 and promptly raising the price from $13.50 to $750 per pill. He also had a reputation for attacking critics on social media and was barred from Twitter for posts about a female journalist.
Even during his trial, when most criminal defendants would lay low, Shkreli stayed online commenting about his own case.
After the verdict, Brafman once again raised hopes he could rein in his client.
“There is an image issue that Martin and I are going to be discussing in the next several days. Martin is a brilliant young man, but sometimes people skills don’t translate well,” he said.
Not much later, Shkreli was on YouTube, answering questions about the case and cracking jokes. During his lengthy livestream, he invited one reporter up to his apartment to ask her questions on camera.
“Ben probably wants me to act and look like your average CEO, but I’m a very individualistic person and I don’t sort of conform to what folks want me to do and not want me to do, and that’s what being an individual is all about,” he said. “As long as it doesn’t interfere with the legal case, it’s my life to live.”
Without more conformity, Shkreli’s lawyer will have his work cut out for him trying convince the court that he should be cut some slack as “someone who is not entirely normal,” said Schwartz, the former prosecutor. “Whether the judge will buy it or not is another question.”
The judge’s last words to the defendant as she left the bench offered no clues.
“I wish you well, Mr. Shkreli,” she said. “See you soon.”