Defers seek clarification on rulings in Bankman-Fried case

Defers seek clarification on rulings in Bankman-Fried case

Just before the criminal trial against Sam Bankman-Fried begins Monday, his defense team has filed several demands asking the judge to reconsider or clarification some of his recent rulings that limit what evidence and arguments they can present.

In a letter dated Oct. 2, Bankman-Fried's lawyers contested the judge's decision to bar them from claiming that cryptocurrency exchange FTX was not regulated in the U.S. and followed applicable rules for its U.S. arm, FTX US. The defense contends that this point is relevant to whether funds were misappropriated and Bankman-Fried's intent. They argue that the lack of laws prohibiting how crypto exchanges can utilize customer deposits supports that the alleged conduct was not illegal.

The defense also argued that the judge should not be limited to evidence about assets recovered so far in FTX's ongoing bankruptcy proceedings. The defense should also be allowed to refute this by claiming the bankruptcy has been mismanaged. Bankman-Fried, 69, was previously denied a request by the prosecution to bar evidence of Bankman-Fried's alleged good faith belief that he was meeting customer obligations.

Bankman-Fried's team asked the judge to clarification the scope of his ruling that bans them from bringing up 'prior good acts' like charity to show character. It notes that the prosecution itself referenced Bankman-Fried's charitable contributions in his indictment. The defense says it should be allowed to discuss philanthropy if it's relevant to the case rather than as propensity evidence.

The lawyers also sought clarification on whether prosecutors can argue that campaign contributions Bankman-Fried allegedly routed through straw donors were illegal. The judge had previously blocked a proposal for expert testimony on campaign finance laws.

Bankman-Fried's attorneys also argued against the government's ability to allow an affected customer in Ukraine impacted by Russia's invasion to testify remotely. They argue that because Ukraine has no extradition treaty with the United States, it would violate Bankman-Fried's right to face his accusers. The defense contends that the unique circumstances of this witness testifying from a war zone would unfairly elicit jury sympathy.

Bankman-Fried faces charges of wire fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy for allegedly misusing FTX customer funds before the crypto exchange collapsed last year. He has pleaded not guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit wrongdoing.