Sam Bankman-Fried will testify at criminal trial, say defense lawyers

After much speculation, the former FTX CEO will be one of only a handful of witnesses to testify for his defense in the criminal fraud case.

Former FTX CEO Sam “SBF” Bankman-Fried will testify as part of his defense case, said attorney Mark Cohen.

In an Oct. 25 telephone conference between SBF’s lawyers, prosecutors and Judge Lewis Kaplan, Cohen said following the prosecution completing the presentation of its case on Oct. 26, his team planned to call three witnesses as well as Bankman-Fried to the stand. Judge Kaplan said he would allow the case to go “straight through” on Oct. 26, moving directly from the prosecutors’ final witness to the defense’s first one.

According to Cohen, the defense is not expected to take more than three days to question the three potential witnesses, which included an attorney based in the Bahamas, Joseph Pimbley from litigation consulting firm PF2 Securities, and an individual to testify on the titles and responsibilities of former FTX employees. Altogether by Kaplan’s estimation, the defense case could take “perhaps an hour”, excluding SBF’s testimony.

The United States government is expected to wrap up its case against SBF on the morning of Oct. 26, with defense attorneys likely finishing the following day. Prosecutors added they were uncertain whether rebuttal witnesses would be necessary depending on Bankman-Fried’s testimony. Closing arguments could be held before Oct. 31.

Related: Sam Bankman-Fried’s trial is telling a story of classic financial deceit

Kaplan questioned whether the court would consider pursuing a special verdict in the case. The situation is one in which “the jury gives its findings on factual issues in the case, without necessarily stating which party should win,” according to Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute.

“[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,” said Assistant U.S. Attorneys Nicolas Roos. “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 possible testimony of Bankman-Fried would follow statements from former FTX and Alameda executives including Caroline Ellison, Gary Wang and Nishad Singh, all of whom admitted to committing crimes on the stand — often at the direction of SBF. The criminal case alleged SBF was responsible for Alameda using FTX funds from customers without their knowledge.

It’s unclear what information Bankman-Fried could provide to the jury that would counter the narrative put forth by other witnesses so far. The trial has been on hiatus since Oct. 19 but is expected to resume on Oct. 26.

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