Lawyer's Argument: SBF Suffers From Anhedonia

His lawyers, parents, and others argue he should serve no more than 6.5 years in prison
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 28, 2024 8:52 AM CST
SBF's Mom: His 'Outward Presentation' Endangers Him
Sam Bankman-Fried leaves Manhattan federal court in New York on Feb. 16, 2023. Bankman-Fried's lawyers are seeking leniency next month at the FTX founder's sentencing for cryptocurrency crimes. The lawyers filed presentence arguments late Monday, Feb. 26, 2024, in Manhattan federal court.   (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

Probation officers recommended that Sam Bankman-Fried spend 100 years in prison—and his lawyers, family, and others on Tuesday argued that was "barbaric," that the 31-year-old risks being in "extreme danger," and that a sentence of 63 to 78 months (that's 6.5 years on the upper end) would be more appropriate. The presentence arguments were filed just minutes before a midnight deadline and included 29 letters of support. Prosecutors have to make their own recommendation by March 15, with Judge Lewis A. Kaplan slated to hand down sentencing on March 28. Bankman-Fried was found guilty of seven counts of fraud and conspiracy, which carry a maximum sentence of 110 years. What you need to know:

  • His mother's letter: Barbara Fried flagged her son's social awkwardness, which she framed as putting his life at risk, per Business Insider. "I genuinely fear for Sam's life in the typical prison environment. Sam's outward presentation, his inability to read or respond appropriately to many social cues, and his touching but naive belief in the power of facts and reason to resolve disputes, put him in extreme danger."
  • His father echoed that: Joseph Bankman wrote the prison setting "would put Sam in an environment where his responses to social cues will sometimes be seen as odd, inappropriate, and disrespectful; when that happens, he will be in significant physical danger. Nothing can justify putting him at that risk."

  • His lawyers' argument: They say a lesser sentence is appropriate because FTX's customers will end up getting their money back during bankruptcy proceedings (in part because of savvy investments Bankman-Fried made in the AI company Anthropic). "That recommendation is grotesque," they wrote, noting "victims are poised to recover—were always poised to recover—a hundred cents on the dollar."
  • His lawyers' argument II: The Wall Street Journal notes they also bristled at the prosecution's depiction of Bankman-Fried as a high-roller with a "lavish penthouse lifestyle in the Bahamas." They said his goals were altruistic, not self-serving, and that material possessions don't motivate him. "Those who know Sam are sensitive to the tragic fact that nothing in life brings him real happiness. Sam suffers from anhedonia, a severe condition characterized by a near-complete absence of enjoyment, motivation, and interest. He has been that way since childhood."

story continues below

  • About that lawyer: The New York Times calls the filing just "one prong of a long-shot strategy orchestrated by Mr. Bankman-Fried's family and friends to reverse his conviction and engineer a public reappraisal of his leadership at FTX." Part of that effort involved hiring Marc Mukasey to handle his sentencing. Mukasey is "known for courtroom showmanship" and managed to get Trevor Milton—who founded electric truck maker Nikola and was convicted defrauding investors in 2022—a four-year sentence; prosecutors wanted 11 years.
(Bankman-Fried is reportedly using fish as currency in prison.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.