The criminal trial of former FTX CEO Sam Bankman Fried (SBF) is currently underway in New York, and his legal team has filed motions aimed at banning the testimony of users and investors on the exchange.
In separate filings on October 2 before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, SBF’s attorneys bidder Pretrial motions from prosecutors asking FTX clients and investors to testify about how they believe the cryptocurrency exchange will handle assets. They also sought to block the testimony of a former FTX user — an unnamed Ukrainian citizen — using “two-way live video” partly on Sixth Amendment grounds.
“Decisions regarding specific testimony from specific witnesses relate to their individual understanding of specific statements or aspects of their relationship with FTX or Mr. Bankman-Fried cannot be made in the abstract,” the filing for FTX’s user testimony said.
According to SBF’s legal team, prosecutors were trying to “have it both ways” by blocking similar witnesses suggested by the defense regarding what they understood about how FTX handled their money. Defense lawyers described the motion as “premature,” considering that the issue was for the jury to evaluate.
“[T]The government appears to want evidence regarding how clients (and other alleged victims) understood the relationship they chose to enter into with FTX to be admissible only if offered by the government but excluded if offered by the defense.
As the lawyers argued Allow The Ukrainian witness’s testimony clearly “points out the individual difficulties and circumstances created by the Russian invasion of Ukraine” and “evokes the jury’s sympathy and outrage.” The Russian military invaded Ukraine in February 2022, and many areas of the country have faced a constant threat of attack since then, making international travel difficult.
“Courts routinely exclude relevant evidence that might arouse sympathy among jurors who are irrelevant to the facts of the case,” the lawyers said. “[T]The circumstances under which [the Ukrainian user] He will testify and the reason for his absence from the courtroom is in itself prejudicial […] Jurors are sure to speculate about why a Ukrainian citizen (and not another witness) testified via video, and more straightforward answers are sure to arouse “sympathy that has no bearing on the merits of the case.”
Related: Justice Department prepares witnesses in Bankman-Fried trial, sheds light on FTX asset management
The motions were filed hours before jury selection was scheduled to begin for Bankman-Fried’s criminal trial in New York City. At press time, Judge Lewis Kaplan was questioning potential jurors about any conflicts they may have that would prevent them from serving in the trial, which is expected to last until November.
Since Kaplan revoked Bankman-Fried’s bail in August, the former FTX CEO has largely remained detained in prison despite several failed attempts by his lawyers for temporary release. He will face two criminal trials in October 2023 and March 2024, where he has pleaded not guilty to all 12 criminal charges related to the alleged fraud at FTX and Alameda Research.
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