One last gamble looms for Sam Bankman-Fried
Lawyers for former cryptocurrency billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried have asked him to obtain more medication to treat his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) so he can better focus on his ongoing trial and possibly testify. Since he faces a long prison sentence for defrauding investors, can he take a stand?
For many following through with the procedures, the signs increasingly point to yes.
The 31-year-old is on trial on seven federal charges including wire fraud, securities fraud and money laundering after the collapse of his cryptocurrency exchange left thousands of FTX customers short of billions of dollars. He denies all charges.
It is widely accepted that the first two weeks of the trial were verging on disaster for him.
A cavalcade of former friends, employees and co-workers testified that Mr. Bankman-Fried took money from FTX for his own purposes, while his team struggled to undermine their story.
“It seems clear that because this case has gone so poorly for him, he sees taking the stand as necessary if he hopes to obtain an acquittal,” said Jacob Frenkel, a former federal prosecutor and partner at Dickinson Wright. After the trial.
On Monday, it was the turn of Nishad Singh, a childhood friend of Mr. Bankman-Fareed’s brother, who said he had repeatedly complained about Mr. Bankman-Fareed’s lavish spending on investments, marketing and sports sponsorships, and felt that the company, intended to be a force for good, was “finally becoming a force for good.” “Evil.”
Bankman Fried’s lawyers obtained admissions from clients that they had not read the terms of service, and demonstrated that his friends often failed to voice their objections at the time. They said the Twitter posts were taken out of context.
But the team is grappling with some decisions made by Judge Lewis Kaplan in the lead-up to the trial, which limited the defense.
Those provisions included limits on what witnesses could represent and the extent to which Bankman-Fried attorneys could present evidence of investor and client negligence.
Letting Bankman-Fried – whose powers of persuasion once helped funnel billions of dollars to his side – speak for himself may be among the best options left.
Lawyers typically advise against their clients taking a stand, for fear of the potential harm that prosecutors’ questions might cause or any impression that jurors might independently take on.
But there are cases where defendants take their stand, particularly Elizabeth Holmes, the famous tech mogul who is now serving a prison sentence for fraud and conspiracy.
Government prosecutors said they were on track to wrap up their part of the trial by October 27, when Mr. Bankman-Fried’s team presents its side of the case.
David I. Miller, a partner at Greenberg Traurig and a former assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York, said putting Mr. Bankman-Fried on the stand was “a very risky proposition” — especially in light of his own comments about the case and the case. Testimony of cooperating witnesses.
“There is a real opportunity for the government to attack the defendant’s credibility and undermine any intent defense being asserted on his behalf,” he said.
The defense need only sow doubt in the minds of the jury, made up of 12 people, with six alternates. The group includes a high school librarian, a commuter train conductor, a pediatric nurse, and a retired investment banker.
Given Bankman-Fried’s frequent willingness to speak to the press – even after charges – and his keen desire to gamble when the payoff is high, many expect him to seize his chance.
That speculation increased after his lawyers raised the possibility in a letter on Sunday asking for more access to Adderall to treat his attention-deficit disorder.
“As we approach the defense case (sic) and the critical decision on whether Mr. Bankman-Fried will testify, the defense has a growing concern that because Mr. Bankman-Fried does not have access to Adderall, he has not been able to concentrate,” attorneys Mark Cohen and Christian Everdale wrote. “He will not be able to meaningfully participate in presenting the defence’s case.”
Judge Kaplan on Monday showed little sympathy, refusing to postpone the trial to address the issue.
It remains difficult to know what Bankman-Fried has to say about all this. He spent most of his hours in court protected by a laptop, which he was given, without Internet access, to take notes.
While his lawyer can advise him on what to do, the decision will ultimately be up to him.
With the possibility of spending decades in prison, this may be his biggest personal bet yet.