FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF) is set to play a pivotal role in his ongoing criminal trial as he chooses to testify on 26 October in a direct appeal to the jurors.
The crux of his testimony centres on refuting allegations of fraud and conspiracy related to the dramatic unravelling of his once-prominent cryptocurrency exchange, a declaration made by his defence attorneys during a recent teleconference on Wednesday.
During the teleconference, involving SBF’s legal team, prosecutors, and Judge Lewis Kaplan, defence counsel Mark Cohen revealed that after the prosecution concludes its case presentation on 26 October, their strategy encompasses calling upon three witnesses, including SBF himself.
Judge Lewis expressed his willingness to facilitate an uninterrupted progression of the case, transitioning directly from the conclusion of the prosecution’s testimony to the defence’s presentation on 26 October.
Mark provided insights into the anticipated duration of the defence’s witness examinations, estimating that it would span no more than three days.
The roster of potential witnesses includes an attorney based in the Bahamas, Joseph Pimbley from the litigation consulting firm PF2 Securities, and an individual who would testify regarding the roles and responsibilities of former FTX employees.
Excluding SBF’s testimony, Judge Lewis surmised that the defence’s case might encompass roughly an hour.
In the meantime, the United States (US) government is slated to conclude its case against SBF on the morning of 26 October, with the defence attorneys anticipated to wrap up their presentation the following day.
Prosecutors expressed uncertainty about the necessity of rebuttal witnesses, contingent upon SBF’s forthcoming testimony.
Assistant US Attorney Nicolas Roos said:
“[T]he government has a single substantive wire fraud count related to customers, and the theory is that the defendant [SBF] made false representations and was in a trust relationship with depositors and took money. I think there is certainly an element to which these are very intertwined to the extent that the false representations created an impression of trust and confidence amongst the victims of the crime.”
The proceedings may advance to closing arguments before 31 October, with Judge Lewis contemplating the possibility of pursuing a special verdict — a situation in which the jury provides findings on factual issues within the case without specifying the favoured party, as delineated by Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute.
Notably, SBF’s testimony will follow the statements delivered by former FTX and Alameda executives, which included admissions of committing crimes, often under SBF’s direction.
The charges have alleged that SBF was complicit in Alameda’s utilisation of FTX customer funds without their knowledge.
Former Alameda Research CEO Caroline Ellison disclosed her involvement in manipulating figures, while former FTX Chief Technology Officer Gary Wang testified to SBF’s directives to facilitate “unlimited fund withdrawals.”
Additionally, former FTX engineering director Nishad Singh addressed the “excessive” endorsements procured by Alameda from celebrities.
The pending question remains: What information will SBF bring to the jury that could counter the narrative presented by earlier witnesses?
The trial had been in recess since 19 October but is slated to resume on 26 October.