Bankman-Fried Attempts to Stop Attorneys From Calling Former Insiders and FTX Investors as Witnesses

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Last Updated on October 3, 2023 by Bitfinsider

In court documents prepared only hours before his trial is scheduled to start, former cryptocurrency CEO Sam Bankman-Fried expressed his desire to prevent the government from summoning several witnesses, including investors in the company and a Ukrainian client who was devastated by the failure of his FTX exchange.

After FTX filed for bankruptcy in November, Bankman-Fried entered a not guilty plea to multiple counts of fraud. According to Bankman-Fried, he is not interested in former insiders from the company testifying about the meaning of purportedly “coded” terms used in an alleged scheme to misappropriate customer monies.

While U.S. Department of Justice prosecutors are seeking testimony from former investors and customers regarding how they understood FTX would protect their assets, Mark Cohen, Bankman-Fried’s attorney, stated in a publicly available filing on Tuesday that the request was “premature” and would lead jurors to conclusions they should reach for themselves.

There is no legal basis for the DOJ’s request, according to Cohen, for the Court to allow “percipient witnesses to offer their own opinions and interpretations on issues that the jury must evaluate from the objective perspective of a reasonable person.” Cohen also stated that the defence ought to have the opportunity to cross-examine any government witnesses.

In an earlier Monday night filing, Cohen said that a proposed Ukrainian FTX customer, who the government claims lost a significant portion of his life savings on the exchange and is unable to leave the country, should not be permitted to testify virtually and was chosen primarily to arouse the jury’s “sympathy and outrage” related to the war.

Additionally, Cohen charged that the government was engaging in “gamesmanship” by attempting to call knowledgeable investors after Judge Lewis Kaplan had denied Bankman-Fried’s own request for witnesses. He further asserted that the former FTX insiders who are assisting the prosecution do not need to clarify Bankman-Fried’s remarks to the jury.

FTX’s former head of Alameda Research, a hedge fund, and Bankman-Fried’s former romantic companion Caroline Ellison are among the colleagues and friends the DOJ is presumably referring to, even if it does not name the suspected co-conspirators it wants to summon to provide such answers.

The trial begins in a lower Manhattan courtroom on Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. Eastern time. The trial’s first phase will choose jury members.

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