Former FTX CEO Sam “SBF” Bankman-Fried has been on trial since October 3 in federal court in New York, charged with seven counts of fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud on FTX investors and clients. As expected, the Justice Department is using an aggressive legal approach to prove his crimes, while Bankman-Fried’s defense has offered minimal resistance so far.
The defense team representing Bankman-Fried includes two attorneys with experience handling high-profile cases. Mark Cohen and Christian Everdale are two former federal prosecutors who also defended Ghislaine Maxwell, who was convicted of sex trafficking in 2021 over her association with Jeffrey Epstein. Despite their experience, they have not been performing their best recently.
Through defense attorneys, jurors were introduced to Bankman-Fried as a young businessman who made serious mistakes during the company’s rapid growth. According to Cohen’s opening statement, FTX was a startup that lacked the proper infrastructure, just like any other startup. “There was no theft,” Cohen said.
Plaintiffs have presented their case to prove otherwise. Evidence submitted last week includes changes made to the FTX code at the request of Bankman-Fried on July 31, 2019. These changes will give Alameda Research special privileges as a client of FTX, including an exemption from the liquidation drive, and the ability to have unlimited negative balance in… stock market.
However, also on July 31, 2019, Bankman-Fried took to Twitter to claim that Alameda’s account was “just like everyone else’s”, downplaying the conflict of interest allegations:
Alameda is a liquidity provider on FTX but their account is the same as everyone else’s. Alameda’s incentive is only for FTX to perform as well as possible; By far, the overriding factor is helping make the trading experience as good as possible.
– SBF (@SBF_FTX) July 31, 2019
Prosecutors used witness testimony, FTX code screenshots, and tweets to show that Bankman-Fried intentionally lied to investors, journalists, and customers. Meanwhile, his defense attorney said little, arguing that Alameda’s role as a market maker required her to receive special privileges and that their relationship was legal.
It is fair to note that prosecutors have the burden of proving alleged crimes, which means that prosecutors must present evidence to support the allegations and convince the jury of the crimes committed. This concept protects defendants from accountability or conviction without strong evidence and ensures that they are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
RELATED: Sam Bankman Fried Trial: A Week in Review
Bankman-Fried’s attorney did not offer much in terms of alternative theories to explain the evidence or mitigate the charges. It also lacks a strong narrative, an essential element of any trial that can be pivotal in influencing the verdict. The defense team, headed by Cohen, has not been able to provide a significant account so far, despite the reports received Shipping Millions of dollars to deal with the Bankman-Fried case. Bankman-Fried’s arrest in August after his bail was revoked on a witness tampering charge also hampered his defence.
The most aggressive approach by Cohen’s team was to deny the credibility of witnesses, especially Bankman-Fried’s former close friends like Adam Yedediah and Gary Wang, both of whom were considered crucial witnesses for prosecutors. Yedia and Wang pleaded guilty to fraud and conspiracy charges and have been cooperating with the Department of Justice since December 2022.
During the second day of the trial, Cohen stated that the prosecution portrayed Bankman-Fried as the sole architect of the mistakes that led to FTX’s bankruptcy, a claim he strongly refutes. According to him, Bankman-Fried took reasonable steps in good faith, while trusting his inner circle to handle any storm. Furthermore, the defense briefly pointed out Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao’s role in the bankruptcy campaign in early November.
“The severity of the sentence will depend largely on the specific charges and the evidence presented during the trial,” Joshua Garcia, a partner at Kitsall, told Cointelegraph. A potential appeal in the case will require the defense team to “identify errors of law or misconduct during the original trial.” According to Garcia, the appeals process “can be lengthy and involve a review of trial procedures and the application of legal principles.”
Another lawyer observing the trial stressed that when the government initiates a case, there is a 95% chance of an indictment, underscoring the significant challenge the defense faces.
As the details of the trial unfold, Bankman-Fried, known for his creative and aggressive marketing approach, will have to remain silent, rein in his instinctive leg shaking, and rely on the efforts of his defense team.
magazine: Blockchain Investigators – The collapse of Mount Gox gave birth to Chainalysis