Former crypto boss Bankman-Fried wants to stop DOJ from calling witnesses

Former crypto boss Bankman-Fried wants to stop DOJ from calling witnesses

Former crypto boss Sam Bankman-Fried wants to stop the government from calling several witnesses, including company investors and a Ukrainian customer, leaving bereft by the collapse of his FTX exchange, according to court filings made just hours before his trial is due to begin.

Bankman-Fried, who has pleaded not guilty to multiple counts of fraud, doesn't want former company insiders testifying about the meaning of supposedly 'coded' expressions used as part of an alleged conspiracy to misuse customer funds.

While prosecutors in the United States Department of Justice want former customers and investors to testify about how they understood FTX would safeguard their assets, Bankman-Fried's lawyer Mark Cohen said in a filing made public Tuesday that the request was 'premature' and would prompt members of the jury to conclusions they should draw for themselves.

The DOJ asked the court to allow percipient witnesses to offer their own opinions and interpretations on issues that the jury must evaluate from the objective perspective of a reasonable person, a move for which there's no legal basis, Cohen said, adding that the defense should at least be able to cross-question any government witnesses.

A proposed Ukrainian FTX customer who lost a substantial portion of his life savings on the exchange, and who cannot leave the country, should not be allowed to testify remotely and had been pickled only to generate the jury's'sympathy and outrage' linked to the war, Cohen said in an earlier filing.

Cohen also accused the government of gamesmanship for seeking to call expert investors after Judge Lewis Kaplan blocked Bankman-Fried's own proposed witnesses, and said that the meaning of Bankman-Fried's words doesn't need to be explained to the jury by the former FTX insiders who are cooperating with prosecutors.

While the DOJ has not named the alleged co-conspirators it wants to call to offer those explanations, it's likely to refer to colleagues and friends like Caroline Ellison, Bankman-Fried's former romantic partner and former head of FTX's hedge fund arm Alameda Research.