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Thursday, December 7, 2023

Jury directions begin in Sam Bankman-Fried criminal trial

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Closing arguments for the criminal trial of Sam Bankman Fried (SBF), the disgraced founder of crypto exchange FTX, have officially concluded with U.S. Southern District of New York Judge Lewis Kaplan moving to jury instructions.

As per the indictment from last December, Bankman-Fried faces a total of seven charges, including two counts of wire fraud conspiracy, two counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit commodities fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud, and one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and commit campaign finance violations.

In his briefing to the jury, Judge Kaplan explained that counts one and three — charges for a scheme to defraud FTX customers using interstate wires and charges for a scheme to defraud lenders to Alameda Research using interstate wires — are substantive, or alleged crimes that are not dependent of another.

"The government need not prove that the victim actually was harmed, only that the defendant [Sam Bankman-Fried] contemplated some harm," said Judge Kaplan. "The defendant need not have participated in the scheme from the beginning."

Seemingly to address SBF's previous defense of relying on the advice of FTX counsel Daniel Friedberg, Judge Kaplan told jurors that "a lawyer's involvement does not in itself constitute a defense." Instead, "Intent may be inferred from circumstantial evidence."

Furthermore, Judge Kaplan stated that for conspiracy charges in count two and count four, "it is sufficient if two or more people came to a common understanding to violate the law." However, he warned that "mere presence at the scene of a crime, or being friendly with a criminal, is not a crime."

During the ongoing criminal trial, key FTX executives — including former Alameda CEO Caroline Ellison, former FTX chief technology officer Gary Wang and former FTX head of engineering Nishad Singh — have all pled guilty to charges relating to the exchange's collapse last November and are currently cooperating with the U.S. government in their testimonies against SBF. If convicted, Bankman-Fried faces a maximum penalty of 115 years in prison. The jury will begin deliberations shortly after lunch.

Related: Sam Bankman-Fried trial [Day 16] — latest update

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