Sam Bankman-Fried can't tell jury that he's been waiting for trial in jail

Quick Take

  • Sam Bankman-Fried has been sitting in jail for over a month after prosecutors accused him of witness tampering ahead of his trial that starts next week.
  • He won’t be able to tell the jury about it.

Sam Bankman-Fried won't be able to tell the jury about his pre-trial detention after a New York district court judge ruled on a series of motions about what may be brought up in the trial that's due to start next week. 

For example, the former FTX CEO will not be able to argue or present evidence around his family background, age or health — and that he's been waiting for the trial to start from jail.

"The government moves to preclude defendant from presenting evidence or argument 'concerning his family background, health, age, pretrial detention, or any other similar factors…absent a showing that such a factor bears on his guilt,'" Judge Lewis Kaplan wrote in a court filing on Tuesday, granting the motion.

Bankman-Fried has been sitting in jail for over a month after prosecutors accused him of witness tampering by leaking the private diary of former colleague and ex-girlfriend Caroline Ellison to the New York Times and using an encrypted message app to contact a potential witness. 

Hot-button topics 

The judge appeared to set the stage for a trial that will stick narrowly to the specific allegations being brought by prosecutors, leaving out many hot-button topics that have fueled media coverage since the crypto exchange collapsed last year. 

Bankman-Fried was precluded from "referring to any alleged prior good acts by the defendant, including any charity or philanthropy, as indicative of his character or his guilt or innocence."

He also won't be allowed to argue or introduce "evidence regarding whether FTX needed to declare bankruptcy, whether it was good for FTX and its customers to declare bankruptcy, whether the defendant supported the bankruptcy petition, whether the exchange would be operational today but for the bankruptcy and/or whether the General Counsel of FTX US and outside attorneys at Sullivan & Cromwell caused FTX declare bankruptcy so that they could benefit financially."


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In an infamous interview last year, Bankman-Fried said he regretted filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and that "everything would be ~70% fixed right now if I hadn't." 

Drugs, and political contributions 

Prosecutors had moved to prevent Bankman-Fried from "cross-examining witnesses about their recreational drug use." Kaplan denied that motion, but said the former FTX CEO should not bring up the topic without giving prior notice to the court and prosecutors. 

Prosecutors will be allowed to show evidence concerning Bankman-Fried's political contributions.

"Evidence of defendant’s alleged illegal campaign finance scheme is direct evidence of the charged offenses," Kaplan said on Tuesday. "Such evidence is intertwined inextricably with the evidence regarding the charged wire fraud scheme on customers of FTX and necessary to complete the story of the charged crimes on trial."

Prosecutors dropped campaign finance charges against Bankman-Fried in July, citing a complication related to the U.S.’s extradition treaty with the Bahamas. However, a campaign finance-related charge is included in a wire fraud charge

Disclaimer: The former CEO and majority shareholder of The Block has disclosed a series of loans from former FTX and Alameda founder Sam Bankman-Fried.

© 2023 The Block. All Rights Reserved. This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.

About Author

Sarah is a reporter at The Block covering policy, regulation and legal happenings. Before, Sarah was a reporter with CQ Legal writing about securities regulation, which is where she first started reporting on crypto. Sarah has also written for The Bond Buyer and American Banker, among other finance-related publications. She graduated from the University of Missouri and earned a degree in print and digital journalism. Sarah is based in Washington D.C., and is an avid coffee lover. You can follow her on Twitter @ForTheWynn.


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