The trial of Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF), former CEO of defunct crypto exchange FTX, started with great activity on its first day in court. As the legal proceedings progressed, it became clear that this critical case would be no ordinary matter. Here are the details…
Day one: Sam Bankman-Fried and his haircut attracted attention
The trial began with jury selection, a crucial stage in any legal proceeding. One notable aspect was the appearance of Sam Bankman-Fried himself. Sam Bankman-Fried, known for his distinctive curly hairstyle, surprised observers by attending the hearing with his very short hair. This change in appearance signals the beginning of a courtroom drama that will be closely watched. Before prospective jurors entered the courtroom, Judge Lewis Kaplan made an important announcement. He informed the SBF that he had the right to testify in his defense if he so wished. The prosecution office announced that there were no plea negotiations or offers between both parties.
Judge Kaplan: The judges are on their way up. But first, Mr. Bankman-Fried, you have a right to testify, it’s your call. If you wish to testify, stand up and I’ll send the jury out and find out why you’re standing. If your lawyers rest, and you wish to, stand up
— Inner City Press (@innercitypress) October 3, 2023
SBF’s lawyer, Mark Cohen, confirmed this, underlining his firm insistence on SBF’s innocence. Judge Kaplan, known for his cold-blooded approach, hinted in his speech to the jurors that the trial might not last as long as expected, contrary to the estimated six-week period. He read the SBF’s charges to them and emphasized that he would ask all the questions. However, both the prosecution and the defense had the right to eliminate some prospective jurors without giving any justification.
Jury members made a statement
During this process, some prospective jurors revealed their personal connections to the case. One juror stated that his company invested in FTX and Alameda, which resulted in financial losses. Another juror said he had heard of Sam Bankman-Fried and FTX during his business research for investment banking firms, but was willing to remain impartial. Another juror revealed that he made a personal investment in cryptocurrencies, which resulted in losses. After extensive questioning, 50 qualified jurors remained. Judge Kaplan stated that the final selection will be held on October 4 and that a total of 18 jurors, including 12 jurors and 6 alternates, are expected to be selected.
Testimonials and legal developments
Another important development during jury selection was the prosecution’s announcement of potential witnesses. The list included names like Alameda Research’s former CEO Caroline Ellison, FTX co-founder Gary Wong and several people closely involved in the case. In particular, several prominent companies such as Sequoia Capital, BlockFi and Binance were cited as having a vested interest in the proceedings. SBF’s legal team objected to the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) plan to call FTX customers and investors as witnesses. They argued that this request was premature. They also objected to the prosecution’s request to allow a Ukrainian FTX customer who suffered significant losses to testify remotely.
DoJ made a statement about the Sam Bankman-Fried case
Separately, US prosecutors reiterated their stance on the current legal framework. They rejected the SBF’s claims that the lack of relevant legislation or guidance could influence the charges against it. Prosecutors firmly argued that the misappropriation of customer assets that formed the basis of the charges against SBF was prohibited by existing law. The US Department of Justice (DoJ) emphasized that the absence of regulation should not be viewed as a matter of whether customer funds were placed in the custody of the defendant. They argued that presenting arguments regarding the absence of regulation could confuse the jury.
Another point of contention concerned whether SBF could provide evidence of its “prior good deeds,” including philanthropy and philanthropy. The Justice Department has stated that it does not object to such evidence as long as it is presented for a proper purpose without the intent to establish character or disposition.
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