Sam Bankman-Fried obtained one other shot at cross-examination on Monday, taking the stand on the identical federal courthouse in New York the place he testified final week in an uncommon evidentiary listening to with out the presence of jurors—to disastrous impact.
The second time round, Bankman-Fried adopted a unique fashion, nevertheless it didn’t go any higher for the disgraced FTX crypto mogul as he suffered by way of a barrage of questions from Division of Justice prosecutor Danielle Sassoon in entrance of a full jury field.
Whereas he initially stumbled by way of with a jumbled mess of phrases interspersed with “ums” and “yups,” Bankman-Fried this time regularly instructed Sassoon he didn’t recall what she was referring to—even when it was statements he instantly wrote or made to coworkers and reporters. The end result was a tortured few hours with Sassoon asking him about his recollections, Bankman-Fried demurring, and Sassoon introducing displays that prompt he knew—or at one level knew—precisely what she was speaking about.
‘I don’t recall’
Earlier than final week, the query of whether or not Bankman-Fried would even take the stand remained open. Many defendants decline to testify for concern of self-incrimination, with their attorneys as a substitute calling different witnesses to make the case for innocence.
However after a bruising array of witnesses from prosecutors that included a number of members of Bankman-Fried’s interior circle—all of whom testified that they’d dedicated fraud by stealing buyer funds at his route—Bankman-Fried made the choice to plead his case to the jury.
Bankman-Fried’s choice to take the stand additionally got here as U.S. District Decide Lewis Kaplan repeatedly instructed his attorneys they may not put forth their most well-liked protection, which was that Bankman-Fried had acted beneath the counsel of his attorneys at FTX. As a substitute, Bankman-Fried’s direct testimony shifted blame to different FTX executives, together with the prosecution’s three star witnesses: Alameda Analysis CEO Caroline Ellison, FTX CTO Gary Wang, and FTX engineering chief Nishad Singh, all former mates of Bankman-Fried.
In Monday’s cross-examination earlier than the jury, Sassoon introduced up proof that Bankman-Fried was in truth conscious of all the issues and unlawful habits at FTX, together with his buying and selling agency Alameda’s massive debt to FTX and its particular privileges that allowed it to steal buyer deposits from FTX.
To show Bankman-Fried’s consciousness of an exercise, she regularly pointed to statements he had made to reporters throughout his notorious media tour in December 2022, proper after the collapse of FTX. These included interviews performed with shops together with Bloomberg and The Monetary Instances. Whilst Bankman-Fried asserted that he didn’t bear in mind the specifics of the interviews, they supplied Sassoon with a wealth of proof to point out his actual feedback—a lot of them damning.
Sitting within the witness field, Bankman-Fried appeared agitated, his eyes darting backwards and forwards as he responded with contrite solutions. At one level, Sassoon performed an audio recording from an interview and requested if it was his voice.
“It sounds prefer it,” Bankman-Fried mentioned.
Sassoon usually responded together with her personal sarcastic quips. After introducing written proof about FTX buying and selling insurance policies, Bankman-Fried’s attorneys mentioned they’d no objections if the proof was not getting used for the reality of the matter asserted within the materials.
“We don’t suppose the representations have been correct, so, no, it’s not being provided for its reality,” Sassoon mentioned.
After final week’s fiery cross-examination with out the jury current, Monday’s testimony appeared extra like a slow-moving chess match the place neither aspect was prepared to concede a single level. As a substitute, Bankman-Fried’s favourite response was “I don’t recall.”
For the important thing query as as to whether Alameda had misappropriated $8 billion of FTX buyer belongings, Bankman-Fried mentioned he couldn’t reply due to the dearth of specifics across the platform’s margin-lending program.
Recalling moments from his media tour, Sassoon requested about an interview Bankman-Fried performed with Bloomberg reporter Zeke Fake at the notorious Bahamas penthouse after FTX collapsed. Within the article, Bankman-Fried mentioned that Alameda didn’t comply with the identical margin guidelines as different merchants and had “extra leeway.” On the stand, Bankman-Fried refused to confess to the contents of the interviews.
Sassoon’s cross-examination seemingly will proceed for at the very least two hours on Tuesday morning. After a re-direct from the protection, a rebuttal from the prosecution, and shutting arguments from each side, the case might wrap up by the top of this week.