As the trial of Sam Bankman-Fried nears its conclusion, the prosecution is slated to conclude its case on October 26, after a marathon of nearly 20 testimonies.
Over the past three weeks, the prosecution has paraded a lineup of witnesses, including former FTX employees, customers, investors, government officials, and law enforcement agents. At the heart of the case lies the central argument that Bankman-Fried deliberately misled all of them and was the mastermind behind the decisions that led to the $8 billion chasm between FTX and Alameda Research in November 2022.
Bankman-Fried’s defense team, however, has yet to confirm whether they will present a case. In criminal trials, attorneys are not obliged to put forth a defense. Should they choose to do so, their case will commence on October 26.
Mark Cohen and Christian Everdell, who lead Bankman-Fried’s legal counsel, have grappled with formulating a persuasive narrative for the jury. During cross-examinations of Bankman-Fried’s former close associates, including Caroline Ellison, Nishad Singh, Adam Yedidia, and Gary Wang, the defense team even missed critical arguments. These individuals, now cooperating with the government, have accused Bankman-Fried of directing them to engage in unlawful activities.
An observing attorney remarked on the uphill battle faced by the defense, noting that when the government initiates a case, there is a 95% likelihood of indictment. Nevertheless, the burden of proving the alleged crimes rests with the prosecutors.
Last week, a notable moment in court was the testimony of FTX’s former engineering director, Singh. He informed the jurors that Bankman-Fried had instructed him to make substantial venture investments funded by loans from Alameda. Singh claimed he was unaware that these funds were connected to FTX customers’ deposits. Singh faces a potential 75-year prison sentence on charges related to defrauding crypto exchange users.
In recent days, District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan’s patience waned as he dealt with lawyers representing both sides. One witness who had fled Texas for the trial provided roughly 15 minutes of testimony, leading the judge to express his frustration, saying, “We had a witness this morning who knew absolutely nothing…and this afternoon we fly somebody in from Texas… he knows nothing or next to nothing,” lamenting the strategies employed by both the prosecutors and the defense’s witnesses.
Furthermore, FTX’s former general counsel, Can Sun, presented a spreadsheet detailing $2.1 billion in loans to Bankman-Fried and other executives. Sun, unaware of the commingling of funds between the exchange and Alameda, is also cooperating with the government in the case.
Should Bankman-Fried be convicted of fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud, he faces the possibility of spending up to 115 years behind bars.