Thursday, December 17, 2015

A highwayman gets captured. Now, will he be appropriately punished?

Here are five words you never want to hear somebody say to you: “Your money or your life.”

In fact, in 18th Century England, if you failed to fork over every penny you had when a highwayman interrupted your journey,  it might be your money and  your life. You would be shot down and left to die at the edge of the road, your pockets rifled anyway.

Little wonder highwaymen were treated unkindly by the courts, often hanged en masse, in public, in England, or beaten until their bones were broken, and beheaded in France. (See illustration at the bottom of this post.)
Smug highwayman Martin Shkreli. When criticized for 
outrageously jacking up the price of a once-cheap lifesaving
drug for his own profit he tweeted in response, "LOL"

Now the authorities have captured a modern highwayman. His named is Martin Shkreli.

Martin Shkreli bought a company that made a drug AIDS victims need on a daily basis to survive and raised the price from $13.50 a dose to $750. He effectively said to thousands, if not millions, of AIDS victims, “Your money or your life. Fork over more than a quarter of a million dollars a year to me, or die.”

It was all perfectly legal. Someone who has the money to buy a company is allowed to buy it. And a company that wants to raise the price of a drug can raise it. And humanity be damned.

Except for one thing. Psychopaths enjoy what they do. Whether it’s the perverse lust for power, or a greed-filled adrenalin rush, or a total lack of human empathy, psychopaths are likely to be serial criminals.

And so it’s not surprising that the F.B.I. found a pattern of behavior in smug-faced Shkreli’s past that is prohibited by the criminal law. He not only seems to enjoy ripping off sick people. He also is charged with having ripped off his own investors.

Specifically the U.S. Attorney has charged Shkreli with seven criminal counts, including conspiracy to commit securities fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Let us hope that when Shkreli’s  trial comes along, defense lawyers won’t flimflam the jury. And let us hope that the judge legally can, and will have the courage to, impose the maximum penalty for each count. Serially. Because we no longer can legally hang him. Or do this to highwaymen, as they did in 18th Century France:

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