Sam Bankman-Fried Faces ‘Tough Road,’ Legal Expert Says

It's going to be an uphill legal battle for the former FTX CEO, who pleaded not guilty to eight counts of criminal charges on Tuesday.

AccessTimeIconJan 4, 2023 at 8:12 p.m. UTC
Updated May 9, 2023 at 4:05 a.m. UTC

Things are looking grim for former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried, according to white collar crime specialist Mark A. Kasten, a partner at law firm Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC Counsel.

Kasten told CoinDesk TV’s “All About Bitcoin” on Tuesday that Bankman-Fried’s path will be difficult as he looks to defend himself in what for now is an upcoming October trial.

“It’s certainly a very tough road for Bankman-Fried to hoe,” Kasten said.

Bankman-Fried, the disgraced CEO of bankrupt exchange FTX, pleaded not guilty to eight counts of criminal charges on Tuesday.

While that plea was “entirely expected,” Kasten said, it doesn’t rule out the possibility that Bankman-Fried’s counsel is negotiating with federal prosecutors, and that a guilty plea could be in the works.

According to Kasten, Bankman-Fried’s challenge now is making a case that counters the guilty pleas of Alameda Research CEO Caroline Ellison and FTX co-founder Gary Wang. Close associates of Bankman-Fried, Ellison and Wang have agreed to fully cooperate with government prosecutors.

“It’s going to be a very tough task for Bankman-Fried to ultimately prevail at trial,” Kasten said. And while Bankman-Fried could be hoping for leniency, he may end up with a more “severe sentence” than he originally bargained for, Kasten added.

From the prosecutor's perspective, they may appear “confident” in their case against Bankman-Fried, said Kasten, “[but] there's always some risk to the government at trial.”

Kasten believe's Bankman-Fried’s defense is likely to lean on the former CEO’s media appearances, his public statements and his business aptitude as reasons to why “he was just out of his depth,” and did not intend to defraud FTX customers and investors.

"Ignorance of the law is a difficult defense and is not commonly successful," cautioned Kasten.


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Fran Velasquez

Fran is CoinDesk's TV writer and reporter.