Sam Bankman-Fried Lambasted by Prosecutor Right Before Jurors Began Deciding His Fate: SBF Thought 'He Could Fool the World'

A verdict in the SBF trial could come before the end of Thursday – on the first anniversary of the CoinDesk scoop that caused his empire to crumble.

AccessTimeIconNov 2, 2023 at 4:10 p.m. UTC
Updated Nov 2, 2023 at 8:48 p.m. UTC
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NEW YORK — Twelve New Yorkers have started deliberating FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried's fate, and a verdict could come later Thursday – the first anniversary, coincidentally, of the CoinDesk scoop that spurred the former crypto mogul's downfall.

The jurors were dispatched Thursday afternoon to do their duty – reviewing the seven fraud and conspiracy charges Bankman-Fried faces – after Judge Lewis Kaplan finished reading them 60 pages of instructions. Jurors will break for dinner from 6 to 7 p.m. ET (22:00 to 23:00 UTC), and deliberate as late as 8 p.m. (midnight UTC).

Thursday morning, prosecutors gave their final remarks to the jurors. Promising customers that their "assets are safe" and then taking that money and spending it on yourself and your companies, "is not a 'reasonable businesses decision,'" Assistant U.S. Attorney Danielle Sassoon said of Bankman-Fried's behavior – invoking a phrase used by a defense attorney in his closing argument a day earlier. "That is fraud."

The government's core argument is that Bankman-Fried misused billions of dollars worth of funds belonging to users of his FTX crypto exchange, siphoning them to businesses, political candidates and real estate ventures via Alameda Research, his crypto trading shop.

Bankman-Fried broke a "sacred, unbreakable rule" when dealing with FTX customer money, Sassoon told the jury. "Your money is your own," she said. "It's not for others to use."

A sketch of Judge Lewis Kaplan on the day jurors began deliberating Sam Bankman-Fried's fate (Danny Nelson/CoinDesk)
A sketch of Judge Lewis Kaplan on the day jurors began deliberating Sam Bankman-Fried's fate (Danny Nelson/CoinDesk)

Sassoon used her final remarks to poke holes in the closing statement of defense attorney Mark Cohen, who appealed to the jury Wednesday to consider whether a real fraudster would agree to an interview on "Good Morning America" just days after he was accused of committing crimes.

Bankman-Fried's post-collapse media blitz "was part of an effort to present himself as reliable," Sassoon said.

As for why the FTX founder continued to pay back lenders in his crypto empire's final days – rather than hoard customer funds for himself – the prosecutor said that Bankman-Fried didn't plan to "run with the money" and risk being exposed. Even after Nov. 7, the day she said FTX collapsed, "he still thought he could fool the world," she said.

The defense argument that most incensed Sassoon, according to her, was Cohen's statement to the jury that the government's star witnesses – top FTX and Alameda executives Caroline Ellison, Gary Wang and Nishad Singh – were incentivized to lie when testifying.

"That's outrageous," Sassoon said loudly, calling it a "desperate and unsupported accusation."

Again and again, she told the jury Bankman-Fried's testimony and the defense's arguments don't make sense. "You know that it's a made-up story," she said. "You should reject it."

Regarding perhaps the defense's favorite argument, that FTX didn't have a risk manager and thus Bankman-Fried didn't know what he was getting himself into, Sassoon said it proved the opposite of what defense lawyers claimed: "That's not a defense, it was a strategy."

"The defendant knew what he was doing was wrong, and that's why he didn't hire a chief risk officer," she told the jury.

"Don't fall for [his lies]," she concluded her statement. "Find him guilty."

Jury instructions

Judge Kaplan spent more than two hours reading the charging document, which detailed the specific charges Bankman-Fried faces, the different legal theories the jury could use to find he is guilty or not guilty, and other pieces of information about how they should conduct their deliberations.

While jurors have access to the written charge document during deliberations, the judge is required by law to read it out loud as well, he said as he began.

The judge denied a defense motion to seat the jury on Friday, when court is scheduled to be on break. A three-day weekend is not that different from a two-day weekend, he said. If the jury does not return a verdict Thursday, court will be in recess until 9:30 a.m. Monday.

Just before Kaplan began, a courtroom deputy told those present they could not be allowed to leave during the reading, and instructed the Marshals to lock the doors.

UPDATE (Nov. 2, 2023, 19:39 UTC): Updates the first paragraph to reflect that jurors have begun deliberating.

UPDATE (Nov. 2, 2023, 20:47 UTC): Updates the second paragraph with the schedule for the rest of Thursday.

Edited by Nick Baker and Marc Hochstein.


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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.

Helene Braun

Helene is a New York-based reporter covering Wall Street, the rise of the spot bitcoin ETFs and crypto exchanges. She is also the co-host of CoinDesk's Markets Daily show. Helene is a graduate of New York University's business and economic reporting program and has appeared on CBS News, YahooFinance and Nasdaq TradeTalks. She holds BTC and ETH.

Nikhilesh De

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

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