Sam Bankman-Fried Sort of Had a Rough Day

Bankman-Fried suffered two procedural losses.

AccessTimeIconSep 22, 2023 at 12:00 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 26, 2023 at 5:52 p.m. UTC

Yesterday was arguably not a great day for Sam Bankman-Fried. First, the judge overseeing his case rejected all seven of his proposed expert witnesses*, questioning at least one’s qualifications and saying some others really wouldn’t be relevant to the case.

Shortly after, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Bankman-Fried’s appeal of Judge Lewis Kaplan’s ruling to revoke his release on bail.

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These are both mostly procedural losses. I don’t think the appeal denial is a surprise to anyone. Judge Kaplan even joked about his record on appeals (favorable) in the Aug. 11 hearing where he remanded Bankman-Fried into custody, and indeed the three-judge panel wrote that they “discern[ed] no error, much less clear error, in the district court’s detention decision.”

What this means is Bankman-Fried will remain behind bars as his trial begins.

Judge Kaplan’s ruling is a lot more interesting. On the face of it – yes, he granted the Department of Justice’s motions to bar all of the defense’s proposed expert witnesses from testifying. But this is more of a mixed bag: The defense can still try and call four of the witnesses, provided they fill out better disclosures at least three days before they’re supposed to testify. The DOJ can still object to the witnesses as well.

We already know the DOJ plans to call witnesses as soon as the week of Oct. 3, and while I haven’t seen a full or final list of witnesses, we do now have some greater clarity about who we can expect to testify over the course of the trial: Gary Wang, Nishad Singh, Caroline Ellison, an FBI agent, Andria van der Merwe (a specialist in “complex litigation and regulatory investigations related to financial markets,” according to her biography) and Peter Easton (a University of Notre Dame professor who will apparently explain FTX’s financials) for starters.

If the defense successfully calls them up, we may also hear from Thomas Bishop to rebut what Easton says, Brian Kim who may rebut the FBI agent’s statements, Joseph Pimbley to respond to a DOJ witness on FTX’s software and Andrew Di Wu to respond to van der Merwe’s testimony.

Edited by Parikshit Mishra.


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Nikhilesh De

Nikhilesh De is CoinDesk's managing editor for global policy and regulation. He owns marginal amounts of bitcoin and ether.