SBF Trial: Lawyers file last ditch requests to judge including barring Ukrainian testimony
Defense of crypto tycoon makes final plea before trial, challenging legal rulings and evidence.
Just before the criminal trial against Sam Bankman-Fried begins today, his defense team has filed several requests asking the judge to reconsider or clarify some of his recent rulings that limit what evidence and arguments they can present.
In a letter dated Oct. 2, Bankman-Fried’s lawyers contested the judge’s decision to bar them from arguing that cryptocurrency exchange FTX was not regulated in the U.S. and followed applicable rules for its U.S. arm, FTX US. The defense argues this point is relevant to whether funds were misappropriated and Bankman-Fried’s intent. They say the apparent lack of laws prohibiting how crypto exchanges can use customer deposits supports that the alleged conduct was not illegal.
The defense also opposed the judge prohibiting evidence about assets recovered so far in FTX’s ongoing bankruptcy proceedings. They say if the prosecution claims customers won’t be repaid, the defense should be allowed to refute this by arguing the bankruptcy has been mismanaged. The judge previously denied a prosecution request to bar evidence of Bankman-Fried’s alleged good faith belief that he was meeting customer obligations.
In addition, Bankman-Fried’s team asked the judge to clarify the scope of his ruling prohibiting them from bringing up “prior good acts” like charity to show character. They note the prosecution itself referenced Bankman-Fried’s charitable contributions in his indictment. The defense says they should be allowed to discuss philanthropy if relevant to the events in the case rather than as propensity evidence.
The lawyers also requested clarification on whether prosecutors can argue campaign contributions Bankman-Fried allegedly routed through straw donors were illegal. The judge previously excluded proposed expert testimony on campaign finance laws.
Bankman-Fried’s attorneys also argued against permitting a customer in Ukraine impacted by Russia’s invasion to testify remotely. They say this would violate Bankman-Fried’s right to face his accusers, as Ukraine has no extradition treaty with the U.S. The defense also contends the unique circumstances of this witness testifying from a war zone would unfairly elicit jury sympathy.
Jury selection starts today, Oct. 3, with opening arguments expected next week. Bankman-Fried faces charges of wire fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy for allegedly misusing FTX customer funds before the crypto exchange collapsed last year. He has pleaded not guilty.