A federal judge has issued rulings limiting some arguments the defense can make at Sam Bankman-Fried’s criminal fraud trial next month. However, the judge will allow Bankman-Fried’s lawyers to question witnesses about past recreational drug use.
Bankman-Fried Can’t Mention Jail Time at Trial
In a 16-page order, Lewis Kaplan, the U.S. District judge presiding over the case granted some of prosecutors’ requests to bar certain defense strategies and evidence at the October trial of the FTX cryptocurrency exchange founder. Kaplan prohibited Sam Bankman-Fried‘s lawyers from telling jurors he’s been detained pretrial or referencing his family and personal life.
The judge also barred arguments over whether FTX customers were negligent in using the exchange or that Bankman-Fried intended to pay back any allegedly stolen funds. Kaplan wrote both are irrelevant or unfairly prejudicial.
However, Kaplan declined to prohibit Bankman-Fried’s lawyers from asking witnesses about recreational drug use. Prosecutors claimed it would harass witnesses and prejudice jurors. Kaplan said the defense must notify him and the prosecutors before raising it.
The rulings came on dueling requests from prosecutors and defense lawyers to limit arguments and evidence at the New York trial, which follows the alleged multibillion-dollar fraud that caused Bahamas-based FTX’s collapse in November 2022.
Bankman-Fried, 30, has pleaded not guilty to charges he defrauded investors and looted customer deposits on FTX, cheating customers out of billions. He was originally freed on $250 million bond but the bond was revoked.
Judge Says Government’s FTT Market Manipulation Evidence Is Admissible
Kaplan also said that the alleged tampering with the cryptocurrency tokens, which supposedly altered Alameda Research’s financial records, was a direct action taken as part of the claimed secret plan or conspiracy. Thus, Kaplan believes the claimed tampering is directly linked to the main accusation in the case.
Additionally, the claim that the defendant instructed the former CEO of Alameda Research, Caroline Ellison, to change the price of FTT shows that they had a close and trusting relationship. Kaplan stressed the importance of this information in proving the case is greater than any potential bias it might cause, so he’s allowed it as evidence in the trial.
Kaplan wrote the ruling after reams of pretrial motions from prosecutors and defense lawyers aiming to tilt the playing field in their favor. Furthermore, Bankman-Fried’s lawyers have attempted to get him released before the trial for the third time in a row.
Jury selection is set for October 3, 2023, with opening statements likely in late October.
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