EmSam, Jury Questions and Another Denial for Bankman-Fried

Sam Bankman-Fried drafted a set of tweets discussing his use of an antidepressant.

AccessTimeIconSep 29, 2023 at 10:00 a.m. UTC
Updated Sep 29, 2023 at 3:47 p.m. UTC

In a rare display of candor – or as part of a calculated exercise in reputation management – Sam Bankman-Fried delved deep into his mental health struggles in a trove of unposted tweets obtained by CoinDesk’s Christine Lee and published for the first time on Friday. “I don’t really know what ‘happiness’ means,” he said in one of the tweets, which he wrote just weeks after his crypto empire blew up last year, as he was facing down a tidal wave of public scorn.

The tweets published by CoinDesk strike a similar tone to those obtained earlier this month by the New York Times; in both cases, it's difficult to discern whether Bankman-Fried’s musings provide an authentic glimpse into the beleaguered crypto founder’s psyche, or whether his mental health battles and personal anecdotes have been played up for sympathy. On this front, it’s impossible to fairly speculate, though it seems likely that Bankman-Fried’s mental health struggles could play a role in his defense.

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CoinDesk’s Dilin Massand and Victor Chen also went down to lower Manhattan to speak with random New Yorkers to approximate what a jury of Bankman-Fried’s peers might look like. Some people heard of FTX and its once-famous founder. Others suggested they wouldn’t feel comfortable being on a jury without knowing more about the industry.

Also this week, Judge Lewis Kaplan – who is overseeing Bankman-Fried’s trial – struck down a request from the FTX founder’s lawyers asking that he be temporarily released from prison. Bankman-Fried has been held in Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Detention Center since his bail was revoked in July, and his lawyers argued for the third time on Thursday that this has made it difficult for them to prepare for trial. With Bankman-Fried’s trial set to begin next week, the argument from his lawyers this time around was that Bankman-Fried would need time to strategize during his trial; previously, they’d asked he be granted release ahead of time.

Kaplan again denied the motion – arguing the FTX founder has had ample opportunity to review the evidence and prepare his defense over the past several months. Kaplan did make some concessions, however, ordering the Department of Prisons to ensure Bankman-Fried be delivered to court at a brisk 7 a.m. on most days of the trial – designed to give him and his lawyers a bit of extra time to incorporate fresh testimony into their defense.

Part of Kaplan’s rationale for denying the release request came from his belief, as a seasoned jurist, that Bankman-Fried might present a flight risk. “Your client could be looking at a very long sentence,” Kaplan told Bankman-Fried’s lawyers. “If things look bleak […] if he had that opportunity, maybe he would seek to flee.”

On a housekeeping note, we officially have the court calendar for the trial through Nov. 11. The court will meet four days a week except for the week of Oct. 22, when it will only be in session two days. There will be no trial on Oct. 9, 20-25, Nov. 3 or Nov. 10. The trial will likely continue after that, the judge noted during yesterday’s hearing.

CORRECTION (Sept. 29, 12:46 UTC): Corrects spelling of EmSam in headline

Edited by Nikhilesh De.


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Sam Kessler

Sam is CoinDesk's deputy managing editor for tech and protocols. He reports on decentralized technology, infrastructure and governance. He owns ETH and BTC.