April 19, 2024
Key Moments from Sam Bankman-Fried's Trial Debut
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Key Moments from Sam Bankman-Fried’s Trial Debut

The high-profile trial of former FTX CEO Sam “SBF” Bankman-Fried commenced on October 3, generating significant interest both inside and outside the crowded Manhattan courtroom.

Bankman-Fried, the defendant, appeared visibly slimmer than before, and his signature unruly curly hair had been replaced with a shorter haircut. He was accompanied by five defense lawyers and appeared less restless than usual. He occasionally interacted with jurors, spoke only when responding to the judge, and spent time consulting with his legal team or using his air-gapped laptop. Bankman-Fried had spent approximately seven weeks in detention at Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center, with his lawyers asserting that he had subsisted on a minimal diet, including “bread and water” and had limited vegan meal options. Crypto influencer Tiffany Fong commented, “He kind of looks more criminal now.”

The first day of the trial had the atmosphere of “the first day of school,” with journalists in attendance noting that it was unlike anything they had seen in the courthouse before. According to The Slate’s Nitish Pahwa, it resembled a “crypto prom” with a diverse mix of media representatives, crypto influencers, enthusiasts, skeptics, and more.

During the jury selection process, Judge Lewis B. Kaplan instructed potential jurors not to conduct any research or read media coverage related to the case. However, when questioning potential jurors, he was more lenient. One juror mentioned learning about FTX and Alameda from The Joe Rogan Experience podcast, while another revealed working for a company that had invested in and lost money on FTX and Alameda. One juror shared a personal experience with crypto, saying, “I invested in crypto. I lost money.” Another juror expressed a negative bias against crypto but was later dismissed.

Judge Kaplan confirmed the selection of 50 qualified jurors, out of which 18 would be chosen, including 12 jurors and six alternates. On the next day, each juror would have a minute to speak, after which final selections would be made following consultations between the lawyers.

During the proceedings, an assistant U.S. attorney presented a list of potential witnesses, including former company executives, family members, and notable figures such as Anthony Scaramucci. Various institutions were also listed, ranging from Jane Street Capital to Binance.

The trial is anticipated to last approximately six weeks, although Judge Kaplan acknowledged that it could conclude sooner. Finalizing the jury selection was expected to be completed by the following day, after which both sides would present their opening arguments, totaling around 90 minutes.

Image by storyset on Freepik

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