Sam Bankman-Fried recently took the stand to argue his own innocence in the ‘United States vs Bankman-Fried’ trial, in which the US government alleges that Bankman-Fried (aka SBF) knowingly defrauded customers of his crypto exchange FTX to cover losses at his hedge fund, Alameda Research.
The messy-haired, 31-year-old entrepreneur, once the poster child of the cryptocurrency world, is now facing decades in prison. The first four weeks of the trial, which started on October 3, 2023, have seen prosecutors argue that SBF defrauded and conspired against FTX customers to the tune of billions of dollars. His decision to present in his own defence is a major turning point that could alter the direction of the trial, slated to end on November 9, 2023 (though an extension is likely).
But how did Sam Bankman-Fried’s testimony come across? Has the prosecution so far successfully argued that SBF is guilty beyond reasonable doubt? Has SBF’s decision to present his own evidence increased his chance of a not guilty verdict?
Here, three tech law experts (not associated with the trial or its participants) give their view to BTW.
Ken Sterling, media attorney, tech entrepreneur
“The trial is not going well for Bankman-Fried. In all probability, he will be convicted and sentenced to between 10 and 120 years in prison. The evidence against him is convincing and so far has not been explained well by the defence counsel. It’s not a good sign when the closest allies and an ex-lover provide testimony against the defendant.
“Bankman-Fried taking the stand is a risky move by the defence, he will not be able to explain the allegations or evidence away. His testimony so far that he acted under the advice of attorneys is weak and when pressed for specifics, he hasn’t been able to provide a sufficient “get out of jail free card.” Even if he consulted attorneys about the issues at FTX and even if they provided certain advice about how to act, the level of fraud and deceit the prosecution has shown is devastating to Bankman-Fried.
“FTX had over one million customers and billions of dollars are lost. In comparison, Bernie Madoff was sentenced to 125 years, had 40,000 victims and $20 billion in cash losses. Elizabeth Holmes received seven years and although it’s arguable her investors were sophisticated and some even complicit in her wrongdoing, that doesn’t excuse the nearly 1.5 million people who inserted pins into their fingers on her behalf.
“In my opinion Bankman-Fried’s sentence will contemplate the blatant fraud and number of victims.”
Felix Shipkevich, founder, principal, Shipkevich PLLC
“SBF agreed to testify in order to appeal to jurors. That’s usually viewed as the last resort appeal to jurors, so that pretty much is an indication of where this trial is ultimately heading.
“The thread that refers to people living in SBF’s $35 million penthouse is quite entertaining and disturbing.
“I would be surprised to see if this was anything short of a strong conviction. This seems like a clear-cut case to me.”
Colin Levy, director of legal and evangelist at Malbek
“I’ve been impressed by the prosecution’s comprehensive coverage of the final days of FTX. It definitely shows disarray and manic behaviour and thus far has painted FTX and its leadership in a precarious light.
“Some of the evidence reveals a degree of callousness on the part of some of the leadership of FTX as well as the severe emotional toll it took on others like Ms. Ellison.
“The most surprising part of the trial so far was the emotions involved. In a trial like this, the raw emotion expressed by some runs counter to what many seemed to expect from the trial despite the massive amount of wealth at play.
“The verdict, based on the evidence presented so far, looks to be against FTX and Sam Bankman-Fried. While the defence has complained about how their client has been portrayed, those complaints seem just to be noise, as they have done little to try to rebuff the villainous portrayal presented so far of their client.”
That’s three votes out of three for a guilty verdict in the Sam Bankman-Fried trial.
Note: The opinions expressed in this article represent the views of the individuals named only, and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of BTW or any of its staff.