On Wednesday, Judge Lewis Kaplan unveiled the 12 individuals who will hold the future of former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF) in their hands.
This pivotal moment took place within the solemn halls of the United States (US) District Court for the Southern District of New York, marking the commencement of a high-stakes legal battle.
The process of jury selection had wrapped up swiftly on the trial’s second day, as nearly 50 prospective jurors provided insights into their backgrounds, encompassing ages, professions, educational pedigrees, and more.
The eclectic mix of potential jurors included a former prosecutor, a retired corrections officer, a flight attendant, and several employees of the Metro-North commuter rail line.
Notably, SBF’s parents, Joseph Bankman and Barbara Fried, professors at Stanford Law School, made an appearance at the federal courthouse in Lower Manhattan on Wednesday morning, having abstained from the trial’s initial day.
A striking transformation was also evident in the defendant himself.
Formerly known for his casual attire and unruly curls, SBF presented a markedly different image in court, adorned in a suit and tie on both Tuesday and Wednesday.
The courtroom proceedings unfolded as prosecutors and defense attorneys offered contrasting narratives for the jury’s deliberation.
Assistant US Attorney Thane Rehn and SBF’s counsel Mark Cohen delivered their opening arguments.
During these opening arguments, Assistant US Attorney Thane Rehn asserted that SBF had utilised FTX customer funds for personal enrichment and to create an illusion of trustworthiness among lawmakers, accomplished through campaign contributions and testimony.
He contended that SBF had consistently deceived users, employees, lawmakers, and the public regarding FTX’s financial health during the turbulence of November 2022, when crucial financial information was disclosed.
In contrast, Mark, delivering his opening statement after Thane, shifted responsibility for FTX’s troubles onto SBF’s former girlfriend and former Alameda Research CEO Caroline Ellison, as well as Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao (CZ).
Mark argued that Caroline had failed to heed SBF’s advice to hedge Alameda’s investments, while CZ’s social media activity had directly contributed to a run on FTX.
SBF’s defense team painted a different portrait, portraying him as a figure who had acted in good faith within the volatile crypto market as his company experienced exponential growth.
They countered the “bad guy” narrative by emphasising that seeking partnerships with celebrities and even investing in a Bahamas penthouse were not inherently criminal activities, stating:
“It’s not a crime to try to get Tom Brady.”
In the days ahead, prosecutors plan to summon three former members of SBF’s inner circle — Caroline and former FTX executives Nishad Singh and Gary Wang — to provide insider perspectives on the alleged crimes.
All three have previously pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with the prosecution.
Their testimonies are expected to offer an insider’s view of the events leading up to the trial, shedding light on the inner workings of the alleged misdeeds.
Mark cautioned the jury that these witnesses might reinterpret their past agreement with SBF in a manner more favourable to the prosecution’s case.
Danielle Sassoon, another prosecutor, indicated that Gary’s testimony would likely occur by the end of the week, ensuring that the trial’s drama continues to unfold.