Sam Bankman-Fried Will Roll the Dice, Take the Stand

Legal experts say it could be the Hail Mary he needs
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 25, 2023 11:55 AM CDT
Sam Bankman-Fried Will Roll the Dice, Take the Stand
FTX co-founder Sam Bankman-Fried, center, listens as Caroline Ellison testifies in Manhattan federal court, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023, in New York.   (Elizabeth Williams via AP)

In what's being categorized as a legal Hail Mary, a lawyer for Sam Bankman-Fried on Wednesday confirmed the FTX founder plans to take the stand in his defense. With federal prosecutors poised to rest their case Thursday morning, the AP reports Judge Lewis A. Kaplan put it like so in a virtual hearing: "It's time to tell me what defense case, if any, you're going to put on." Lawyer Mark Cohen replied, "We are going to put on potentially three witnesses, then our client is also going to be testifying," likely on Thursday and Friday.

The AP adds one caveat: prosecutors and the judge did later discuss the possibility that closing arguments could happen as soon as early next week if Bankman-Fried ends up changing his mind. The Wall Street Journal gives context, explaining conventional wisdom has defendants in criminal trials decline to take the stand because doing so exposes them to cross-examination by the prosecution. But the Journal says some legal experts see it as Bankman-Fried's only chance of turning the tables in his favor, as "a parade of witnesses have provided testimony that painted an overwhelming portrait of Bankman-Fried as a dismissive and image-obsessed boss who doctored balance sheets and lied to the public."

The AP also speaks with former prosecutors who say Bankman-Fried should have a single goal when he takes the stand: Convince just "one or two jurors that he's a sympathetic character who just let FTX's problems get out of control" and isn't guilty of the fraud and money-laundering charges he faces. And as defense attorney Ilene Jaroslaw puts it to Reuters, "It's not irrational to testify, if you think you are going down because the evidence is so overwhelming." (More Sam Bankman-Fried stories.)

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